Fishguard and Goodwick – our successful new station – remains unrecognised by every online rail booking service surveyed by Fishguard Trains.
That is the shock finding of our new study, well over a year since the station re-opened, boosting the trial rail service which is due for review by the Welsh Government in barely a year’s time.
There is little doubt that re-opening Fishguard and Goodwick Station has raised both the profile and the usage of the new service. Fishguard Harbour, so convenient for ferry passengers, was hopelessly unsuitable for travellers to and from Fishguard, Goodwick and North Pembrokeshire. But visible as the new station is to us in the twin towns, the station name remains invisible online. The success of the reopening is no thanks to the online booking and information services that still fail to recognise the new station name.
Online booking is a vital way for rail travellers to discover how accessible North Pembrokeshire now is by rail.
But go online searching for Fishguard and Goodwick, and you get messages like An invalid station has been entered or Please select a valid departure station.
Fishguard Trains tested these nine online services – Red Spotted Hanky, Take the train, East Coast, The Trainline, Raileasy, mytrainticket.co.uk, National Rail Enquiries, Arriva Trains Wales and Traveline Cymru. Not a single site accepts the input Fishguard and Goodwick. Traveline Cymru is the least poor, as it offers alternatives, including Fishguard & Goodwick Rail Station. But none of the other sites offer an alternative. Five sites will accept Fishguard & Goodwick (The Trainline, Raileasy, mytrainticket, National Rail and Arriva), but three will not even do that. Red Spotted Hanky and East Coast require you to guess Fishguard & Gwck, and Take the train comes in worst, accepting no kind of input for the station.
To test if there is a general problem with station names containing and, or even just with long station names, Fishguard Trains tried the same tests with Elton and Orston, Haddenham and Thame Parkway, and Windsor and Eton Riverside.
Elton and Orston comes out best. Five online sites accept the correct name, while four (mytrainticket, National Rail, Arriva and Traveline Cymru) demand an ampersand. But even faced with a long, four-word station name, three sites still manage to cope – Red Spotted Hanky, Take the train and East Coast all recognise the names Haddenham and Thame Parkway and Windsor and Eton Riverside just as they appear on the platform. The other sites require the ampersand.
Fishguard Trains wondered how Take the train copes with these monster names, but can’t recognise Fishguard and Goodwick even in abbreviated form. We asked them why. They replied:
Thank you for your email. Fishguard and Goodwick is available to book tickets from on takethetrain.co.uk, the station is loaded under it’s correct name, Fishguard Harbour. Has this answered your question? If not, please let me know.
Why does all this matter? Pembrokeshire County Council and the Welsh Government (in other words we taxpayers and council taxpayers) funded the reopening of Fishguard and Goodwick as it is crucial to the viability of the new rail service. We have just one year left to ensure the service becomes permanent. It is unacceptable that not a single online booking service recognises the correct station name, and ludicrous that one online service does not even know the station exists.
If despite these obstacles, people still travel by rail, but book to Fishguard Harbour, we still lose out as passenger statistics are distorted, and understate the impact of Fishguard and Goodwick.
Next time you use one of these online services, why not send them a message to tell them we exist?