Fáilte!

“The big plus of Fishguard Harbour compared to most other ports around Ireland and Britain is that the transfer between ship and train is under cover and the ship’s gangway and train platform are moments rather than minutes apart with no cumbersome shuttle bus transfers.”

Not our words, but quoted from a brand new Irish website launched today: South Tipperary by rail

The non-commercial website, run by Bernard Allan, covers much more than rail travel in a corner of the Irish midlands. Navigate to the page headed Sea & rail via Rosslare – Fishguard to Wales & England, and you get an Irish-eye view of our line, our terminus and its place in the wider scheme of things. It is a refreshing change of perspective.

Instead of seeing our line as a remote extension of the UK rail network, in the gift of vote-seeking politicians (and sadly also at their mercy), Fishguard is seen as a key link in the chain connecting southern Ireland to Cardiff, London, Heathrow and the world. One moment you’ll be crossing Fishguard’s platform under cover from ship to train; a few hours later you’re on the tube at Paddington or checking in at Heathrow.

Which makes it all the more ironic that on the Irish side they are struggling to maintain the integrity of their rail network. The South Tipperary line serves the Irish midlands and south from Limerick to Waterford. It used to continue onwards to Wexford and Rosslare, to provide a continuous sail-rail service from southern Ireland to southern Wales and England. Instead, the line between Waterford and Wexford is closed, replaced by buses. Trains continue to run between Rosslare and Dublin, but the southern sail-rail route for which the Fishguard-Rosslare ferry is ideally placed, has been broken.

Not for us to comment on the politics of rail in Ireland (we can barely understand the politics of rail in Wales). But you might have thought that the European Union would take an interest in how people, goods, business and foreign tourists might best travel between these two neighbouring European regions. Next time a European politician canvasses your vote (they do that, don’t they?), you might ask how they propose to improve travel between southern Ireland and Wales.

Meanwhile we’re with you, Bernard, and a warm Fáilte! to your exciting new website.

10 Comments

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10 Responses to Fáilte!

  1. I wish the same words could be said of Rosslare Harbour. The new, rather grim, station provided a few years ago is a long poorly signposted exposed walk from the Harbour Terminal Building which is itself a long walk from the ship (which is a legacy of the original station on the pier being closed). The buses on the other hand leave from just outside the Terminal building. Everything possible seems to have been done at Rosslare to frustrate the rail passenger.

  2. Swansea Jack

    When you remember that the present Rosslare Harbour terminal designed for Rail – Ferry interchange was partly funded by the EU for that purpose. The rail link was then cut short of the terminal building in order to save the costs of a crossing keeper to supervise the road crossing. Why the harbour authorities couldn’t have replaced the crossing keeper with an automatic system as used at Fishguard Harbour one doesn’t know, but the present arrangements are not fit for purpose.

    As far as the Railway between Rosslare Strand and Waterford there was funding on the table to enable upgrading of the line from the Irish Government – money that IR did not take up. The Rosslare – Waterford route certainly needed upgrading, some of the route still had the original track from 1903 in place, as dates on the chairs which support the rails having those dates on them at closure prove. It would have been useful to automate the numerous level crossings too, which would have reduced running costs of the route.

    As the railway was part of the FRRH estate rather than a pure IR property then the maintenance of the route was probably placed in the ‘too difficult’ category and was allowed to close.

    As noted above the South Wexford line had the potential to improve public transport links between Wales / England and the Western and Southern parts of the Republic, especially Waterford, Limerick and Cork. With the present economic situation across Europe, and especially Ireland, one would have thought that making the most of transport links rather than running them down, would be a sensible idea.

    Consider a trip to Limerick or Cork – via Dublin, or rely on a bus from Rosslare to Waterford. Then wait hours for a train via Tipperary to Limerick Junction to change for onward travel to Cork / Limerick. From Fishguard it would be quicker to reach Edinburgh than to get to Limerick. Fine, so if that’s how you want it Irish tourism, I’ll plan a great weekend to Auld Reekie, or Glasgow yet again, while the Republic misses out.

    I used to enjoy a great day trip to Kilkenny – overnight ferry to Rosslare, train to Waterford, an hour or so later after a coffee in Waterford, catch a Dublin train up to Kilkenny and head back the same way for the evening sailing to Fishguard. Great day out, but I cannot do that by train now, so my money will go somewhere other than the Irish economy which is a shame.

    There are increasing numbers of potential visitors who want to leave the car behind, and don’t support environmentally suspect short haul flights. It would seem that Western and Southern parts of the Republic are happy to let those visitors go elsewhere. Hopefully they’ll come to Pembrokeshire instead!

  3. DBJ

    It’s a pity ATW don’t offer the same welcome. Only a 2 car unit yesterday for the platform full of Rugby fans. I remember our side having the posh trains when the HST service was running, and the Irish side having the crappy old stock. Now it’s the other way round!

  4. Swansea Jack

    ATW not strengthening the boat train yesterday seems to have been a rather stupid decision as there was always going to be a large uplift in the number of foot passengers. One wonders whether the derailed train on the Rhymney branch on Thursday played a part, as that accident blocked in all the trains stabled overnight at Rhymney for Thursdays service and that on Friday morning. That would have taken away the option of strengthening the Fishguard service as there would have been no spare stock.

    It is to be hoped that the boat train Westbound Saturday night will be strengthened as it is sure to be heaving, as will the morning Cardiff to Fishguard boat train – both carrying returning Irish fans back to the ferry service. With the Rhymney line derailment having been cleared I would expect there to be sufficient vehicles available so it will be interesting to see if they’ll strengthen those 2 trains, as well as the Sunday night / Monday service and even the Monday morning boat train.

    • Rhydgaled

      I have two things to say on the subject of rugby-related strengthening, not necessarily related to the Irish ferry service though:

      1. In theroy, there would have been spare stock around, even with units stuck up the valleys, in the form of the mark2 coaches ATW own. Whether they would have had staff available who sign locos and coaches is of course another matter, and if they had already planned to strengthen the service using multiple units they may not have had time to change plans due to a derailment anyhow. Still, I think it scandalous that all of ATW’s mark2 stock, which according to one website had the pool code ‘Arriva Trains Wales Special Events stock’ are now lying completly unused and perhaps even for sale while the express boat train suffers a 150 and some S.Wales – Manchester services are crammed 2-car 175s*.

      2. I wonder if an extra train was put on from Holyhead to Cardiff and back, using the premier service mark3 rake, for today’s Wales vs Ireland game as is sometimes done for internationals in Cardiff. If so, are any other additional services run? I once changed trains in Cardiff after a rugby match and noticed a unit showing a destonation of Newport , so I assumed this was a Cardiff – Newport shuttle laid on to shift rugby fans, and there possibly was a FirstGW IC125 to Swansea that was orriginating there, rather than coming in from London, but apart from the Holyhead – Cardiff and possibly a Cardiff – Newport shuttle, does ATW run any extras? If not, then why isn’t there an extra train to S.W. Wales as well as north Wales, rugby’s more popular in the south of Wales than the north isn’t it?

      * I’d suggest putting the mark2s on S.Wales – Manchester or N.Wales – Manchester in rakes of 3 to 6 coaches and use this to cascade stock around so that most Manchester services are either mark2s or 3-car 175s and the Fishguard boat train is either a 158 or a 2-car 175. Either that or just use the mark2s for special events, but in that case there’s more than just rugby which should receive extra capacity in this form.

  5. DBJ

    3 car 175 today, that’s better than the 2-car they put on from MH yesterday for the peak rugby fan service!

  6. Swansea Jack

    Rhydgaled. Firstly yes, the Gerallt Cymro stock was used for an additional Holyhead – Cardiff and return additional for fans. I cannot speak for recent years as I no longer head to Cardiff for International games, but as a general rule both FGW and ATW will run additional and/or strengthened trains to cope with the Rugby crowds on International days.

    The number of additional trains is reduced from previous years, but then the train service is more frequent than back in the 1980s and 1990s. What does tend to happen is that the number of vehicles in each train is increased, on the Valley Lines, on the Cardiff – Crewe route, Cardiff – Bristol and West Wales routes.

    It must be accepted that the ATW franchise was let on a non -growth business, but that since its start normal passenger numbers have increased by over 50% with a far smaller increase in train vehicles, so any spare vehicles that may have been available in the past are not there anymore.

    ATW will lend stock from elsewhere where available, but the lack of working knowledge on locos and stock does make it rather difficult to go down the road of hiring stock from the likes of West Coast (WCRC) or Direct Rail Services (DRS) which would have happened in past years.

    The constant referral to the Arriva mark II stock ignores the lack of suitable trained staff to operate the train, the lack of ATW locomotives and the costs imposed on operators by the crazy privatisation system under which the railways have operated since 1st April 1994. You note that on Friday morning ATW had much stock trapped at Rhymney, there would have been no possibility at such a late stage of arranging a loco hauled replacement to cover for the unavailable stock.

    The other problem with hauled trains is that of reversals at Swansea an Carmarthen – the daytime boat train not calling at Swansea (or Carmarthen) was the reason that service was loco-hauled in the Summers 2002-2004 and 2006. Unfortunately the industry has moved on somewhat since then, and Arriva and the present franchise are less able to resort to loco-hauled additionals than the previous Tom Clift inspired franchise.

    DBJ – the lack of any spare class 175s does reduce the possibility of strengthening all services, but it does appear to me that West Wales does lose out at times of peak use, and has done since BR days. A 2 car 175 is an issue, but remember that there are a number of timetabled FGW services from Carmarthen on a Saturday morning which cover the majority of the busy stations West of Cardiff for rugby fans, although obviously of little help for Pembrokeshire passengers.

    • Rhydgaled

      The replacement of 57s and mark2s with 67s, mark3s and DVTs does show that staff can be trained up, even on ATW’s no-growth franchise, if the will to use the stock is there.

      I am quite aware of the problems of reversals, however I am also aware it is a no-growth franchise, and therefore the obvious solution, more 158s, is unavailable (and other TOCs can’t spare any anyway). It is due to the lack of other options that I believe reintroduction of ATW’s mark2 stock is very important as the only way to improve capacity and get 150s of long-distance and express workings.

  7. DBJ

    The 2 car 175 was FULL with standing from Haverfordwest on Saturday morning, and they continued to jam passengers in until Port Talbot when they eventually started turning passengers away to get on the HST that was following about 10 mins later. I know the passengers at Neath were complaining of being cold on the platform so decided not to wait for the FGW service (including Peter Hain MP!). All the years I have been travelling to internationals I have only ever seen extra services put on for the Valley’s passengers, not for anyone travelling to and from west of Cardiff who have to make do with the standard timetabled trains. Considering the large communities with a long rugby heritage that these serve, such as Llanelli and Neath, this seems scandalous!

  8. Swansea Jack

    The staff training for class 57s and mark IIs or class 67s and mark IIIs was part of Y Gerallt Cymro contract which as we know pumped considerable moneys into ATW coffers. The majority of the services that could benefit from additional Loco-hauled coaching stock are part of the original franchise and commercially cannot be justified, unfortunately.

    DBJ – I travelled regularly on additional trains from Carmarthen / Pembrey / Swansea into Cardiff on match days from 1983 until around the time of the Rugby World Cup in Cardiff, the last occasion I travelled on an additional being run from West Wales was on 6th October 2004 when a Carmarthen to Cardiff and return additional was operated, although from memory a couple ran after that date for a year or two.

    I appreciate that few if any actually served Pembrokeshire stations, and that I don’t believe any additionals run to / from West Wales these days, which as you say is a scandal considering the rugby supporting heritage from the Llanelli and Neath areas, among others. The lack of additional vehicles on Friday’s boat train is also rather disappointing, as large numbers of travelling Irish fans certainly should have been expected.

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