An invalid station

station nameboard

station nameboard

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.

roadside sign

roadside sign

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.

plaque commemorating station opening

opening day

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.

entrance sign

entrance sign

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?

7 Comments

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7 Responses to An invalid station

  1. Rhydgaled

    Typing “Fishguard” into the Mixing Deck on First Great Western, East Coast and Chiltern Railways websites gets me the suggestion of Fishguard & Gwck.

    Your response from takethetrain.co.uk (which, incidently, Firefox tells me is unsafe) suggests they think Fishguard & Goodwick doesn’t exist and that it’s just a local name for Fishguard Harbour.

    Booking to the harbour is always going to be a problem for the statistics, as we have seen cheaper fares are sometimes available to/from the harbour. Additionally, if somebody decides to provide propper bus connections without capital investment they will need to run the buses to the harbour.

    We need a way of diferentiating local and Irish traffic at the harbour, do the Irish travelers use through rail-sail tickets or by seperate tickets for train and boat?

  2. Irishman

    From personal observations I would say that many but not all passengers bound to and from Ireland use the SailRail tickets. When checking-in at Rosslare the SailRail ticket issue book is often sitting behind the counter ready and open. On the boat train from Fishguard Harbour quite a lot tender tickets to the guard as opposed to buying tickets. On the other hand the last time returning to Rosslare a chap off the train ahead of me in the check-in queue at Fishguard produced a page, presumably a Stena Line e-ticket (it certainly wasn’t a SailRail ticket).

    Given there is usually a substantial saving to be made by buying a SailRail ticket there really are only a few reasons why cross-channel passengers may not be in possession of one e.g.
    * Lack of awareness. This is a “big” issue. Over the last few years I’m aware of at least two separate people who travelled via Pembroke Dock. Evidently it appears they weren’t aware of the fact that the rail station is around a mile away from the terminal and that the trains aren’t timetabled to specifically connect (also no overnight trains).
    * Lack of availability e.g. (i) Allocation of space on the ferry sold out; (ii) passenger starting journey at a station without (staffed) ticketing facility and unable to buy/ travelling at short notice.

    There’s probably one or two other factors too I haven’t thought of. The first class argument crossed my mind but aside from the weekend upgrades (£20) I think I’d speak for most fellow passengers that first class is out of league on cost grounds – besides one has to travel some distance east before seeing a First Great Western train in the first place.

    Incidentally the rail and ferry companies get more revenue when passengers buy separately. But in the case of the ferry while the fare revenue from a SailRail ticket is low, passengers do spend in varying amounts on board e.g. cabin, shop, meal and the ferry company may get more revenue from the passenger’s onboard spend than from the fare.

    Given that Stena Line would know the total number of SailRail passengers onboard a given sailing I wonder whether this data could, in some way, be fed into the station statistics data. This should allow a much clearer picture of through traffic and local traffic at the harbour station. A valid argument is that SailRail passenger numbers may be commercially sensitive info. On the other hand if anyone, for whatever reason, really wants to know about the usage of a given train/ ship/ bus it’s easy enough to build up a reasonably accurate picture from observation.

  3. Irishman

    PS: point re Pembroke Dock is intended to illustrate broader lack of awareness. I’m sure there are some, travelling to Fishguard by rail that still buy ferry tickets separately due to lack of knowledge.

  4. Swansea Jack

    Differentiating ferry and ‘local’ passengers might be useful, especially when targeting advertising etc, but when comparing present passenger numbers with historical data we need to be mindful that local people did use the train service before the additional trains and Goodwick station opened. What is important is the uplift in numbers since September 2011 when we come towards the end of the 3 year trial period.

    The ‘TaketheTrain’ site (not one I’ve used) obviously hasn’t noticed that the new station exists, mind you Arriva occasionally miss it out on route maps while their index of stations still has Gwdig for Wdig at times.

    There should no longer be an issue with cheaper tickets being available to the Harbour rather than Goodwick – this issue should finally have been sorted out earlier this year; in fact there is a case where online search engines allow a cheaper fare to Fishguard & Goodwick than other West Wales stations in one instance (until that loophole is closed probably!!). This assumes pre-set available numbers of discounted tickets haven’t been reached, or the RailSail combined tickets which could be cheaper than rail only to Goodwick in some instances.

    • Rhydgaled

      The cheaper fares issue I was refering to is the pre-set available number of discounted (‘Advance’) tickets. If they are gone to Goodwick but still available to the harbour that could prompt passengers to buy tickets to the harbour when they will actually be alighting at Goodwick.

  5. Rhydgaled

    The 2012/13 station usage statistics have now been published. If I’m reading them right, it was 12,072 passengers using the ‘invalid station’ (FGW) and 35,520 using FGH (compared to 38,828 the previous year, before FGW opened).

  6. Rhydgaled

    More errors… National Rail Equiries’ station information page for FGW, while correctly listing the lack of most facilities, states that there is no car park. Come on NRE, other than location the free car park is the one thing Fishguard’s newest station has going for it.

    As for the future, you may be interested in the article I just posted on my blog. It seems that, certain other European countries, the future of our branch would be uncertain. Does the same apply here? We don’t even know exactly when the trial is scheduled to conclude yet.

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