Picture this …

passengers arrive at Fishguard and GoodwickFishguard and Goodwick Station at 18:46 on Friday October 11th 2013.

The new station has been open for under a year and a half.

 

 

more passengersOne of our two evening trains arrives from the east, and many people, young and old, local and international, get off.

4They have travelled from Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, London, Chicago and New York. 

 

 

5All this is still only a trial service. One day our government in Cardiff Bay will determine if it has a future.

How confident are we that besides making the trial permanent, they will also address the shortcomings in our present service?

 

 

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Remember these pictures when that time comes – it’s sooner than you think.

 

 

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21 Comments

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21 Responses to Picture this …

  1. Swansea Jack

    Great to see the new station and trains being well used. As you note the trial is now over 2 years into its 3 year period, so it won’t be long before decisions will be made in Cardiff over continued funding.

    It is also good to see that class 158s still appear (even in not regularly) on the evening services, they do provide a more pleasant travelling experience than the class 150s – especially over distances like Cardiff to North Pembrokeshire. I have noticed that the afternoon Gloucester to Fishguard Harbour often brings in numerous visitors to the area – especially on Fridays, so it is good to see the local train service is helping to support the local tourist industry by bringing people into the area.

    Seeing the new station looking busy like this puts some evidence to counteract the ‘more than that from Ferryside’ comment a while back. It is encouraging to see the use being made of our additional trains, but we all need to continue efforts to grow the numbers of passengers month on month, especially over the critically important next few months.

    • Rhydgaled

      I agree, good to see that the 18:46 arrival is well used and worked by a class 158. How do the other services compare though? It would be interesting to see how the additional 20,000 passengers per anum are divided between Fishguard’s 6 or 7 services each way.

      I think there is still an ATW 158 at Bristol under-going repairs following an unfortunate encounter with a road vehicle at a level crossing, which may mean a 150 has to substitute on the evening Fishguard service more often. It is a shame though that we still have a class 150 on the boat train even when everything is running smoothly.

      Once the trial is complete, it would also be interesting to see what impact further improvments could make. The 3.5hr and 5hr gaps remaining in the daytime timetable have to be quite off-putting to potential passengers. Likewise class 150s on the long-distance runs, changing at Clarbeston Road and having to share trains out of Cardiff with Swansea commuters (let alone the tedium of having to go into Swansea and out again if heading to/from Cardiff or England).

  2. Swansea Jack

    I don’t think the gap between the 09:56 and 13:30 is much of a problem as most departures will have left by 10 am which is late enough even for those relying upon bus connections to Goodwick. The lack of a mid-afternoon service does leave a long gap and does cause issues for people travelling beyond Cardiff.

    In terms of arrivals morning services at 06:42 and 10:57 from Cardiff seem reasonable as do the 16:05 and 17:40 Cardiff departures in the evening with the late boat train covering late departures from elsewhere. Again the lack of a mid-afternoon arrival will impact on those heading up to Carmarthen for a half-day meeting or shop.

    In comparison with places like Oban and Fort William we compare rather well however, and things are rather better than they were 3 years ago. The first aim is to maintain what we have and once that target has been achieved then trying to fill the mid-afternoon gap would be a suitable future focus.

    The sharing od services with commuters from Cardiff and Swansea helps to justify the trains in the first place, but it is to be hoped that ATW can alleviate the overcrowding on the 17:40 Cardiff to Milford service resources and timetable paths permitting.

    • Rhydgaled

      While the gap between the 09:56 and 13:30 departures is not too worrying, it does leave a gap in arrivals which is rather more of a problem as it doesn’t give good day-trip options to north Pembs. Also bus connections to Goodwick: because of the outdated bus network the 9am bus from Cardigan will not get you to the 09:56 train, it arrives at Fishguard Town Hall at 09:40 with the next 410 service to Goodwick not until 10am. So if you want the train it’s the 08:10 from Newport (north of there misses out) which gets you to the 08:40 410 to Goodwick, getting you there at 08:45 with over an hour to wait for the train.

      The afternoon gap is a problem in both directions, as 19:00 is a bit late for the return portion of a day trip and 10:57 from Cardiff makes for a rather early start if making a long journey to Fishguard, say from Portsmouth.

  3. James Power

    I travelled through Fishguard & Goodwick on the 10:57 departure from Cardiff Central and there was at least 8 people who got off the train and maybe 8 – 10 waiting for the return service, this was 24th October 2013 and was travelling to Ireland.

    I returned on the 28th October and caught the 13:29 Fishguard Harbour – Cheltenham Spa service (I was on until the end as well to Cheltenham for a change to Birmingham and finally Hinckley) and 8 got on at F & G which I was happy to see. Many years of travelling to Ireland and passing through the old station and then one day I pass through again and it’s open and being used, certainly hope the Welsh Government will continue with this.

    • Spad

      And come the day when the Welsh Government decides what comes after our three-year trial, we will make sure your comments are in their in-tray – plus all the mounting evidence of a successful operation. Thanks James.

      • Rhydgaled

        Do we have any news regarding the next steps yet?

        If I remember correctly, there was supposed to be a public consultation at the end of the trial service. And I’d hope the Welsh Government decide what, if any, service should be run from September 2014 in time for the timetable planners. Nobody wants a ‘back to just boat trains while we decide if the trial was a success’ do they?

  4. James Power

    Statistics been released, Fishguard & Goodwick seen 12072 users in the 2012/2013 period (also on the Wikipedia page too).

    • Spad

      But that’s not quite the full story. Fishguard and Goodwick was only opened on May 14 2012, 44 days into the statistical period. To make comparisons, you have to adjust the user figure to reflect a full year – that gives 13,684 users. At the same time, users at Fishguard Harbour declined from 38,828 in 2011-12 to 35,520 in 2012-13. So the adjusted 2012-13 total users at the two Fishguard stations is

        49,204

      . Compare that with Pembroke Dock for the same period: 47,686. A pretty good start? Comments anyone?

  5. Denis

    Can anyone tell me, is the fall in passenger numbers at Fishguard Bay due to the re-opening of the new station?

    • Fishguard Bay???

      If you mean Fishguard Harbour, then I suspect that the fall is indeed due to the openning of the new Fishguard & Goodwick station.

      As Spad says, the total passenger numbers across the two stations (47,592) is an increase (of 8,740) over the previous year’s figures for Fishguard Harbour alone.

      Compared to the last full year of just boat trains (2010/11) I think the overall Fishguard passenger count (47,592, remember) for 2012/13 is an increase of 16,760. Again, as Spad says the new station wasn’t open for the entirety of the 2012/13 period, so I suspect the next year’s figures will again see a fall in passenger numbers at the harbour and a rise at Goodwick.

      • Denis

        Thank you. A lovely rail journey. I wish you every success and that rail services to the area thrive.

        • Spad

          Thanks Denis.
          Here’s another way of looking at the success of our new rail service. Pembroke Dock: population 9753, rail users 47,686. Fishguard and Goodwick: population 5139, rail users (both stations) 49,204.
          So Pembroke Dock generates just under 5 rail journeys per head of population. Fishguard and Goodwick generate just under 10 rail journeys per head – twice as many!
          And yes, both towns have Irish ferry traffic, so the figures are comparable.

          • Blocking Back

            That’s an average of 10.75 people per train – the vast majority of whom travel on the two Boat Trains that existed before the new service.

            I wouldn’t really agree that the ferry traffic for Fishguard & Pembroke Dock is equivalent, as getting from Pembroke Dock Station to the ferry is something of a headache, whereas the link to the ferry in Fishguard couldn’t possibly be more convenient.

            I’d be interested in seeing passenger figures for the pre-2012 service, to see how much extra business has been generated by the new service. Does anyone have them?

  6. Swansea Jack

    Passenger loading figures for Fishguard Harbour (plus Fishguard & Goodwick from May 2012) as follows:
    2007-08: 24,755
    2008-09: 24,838
    2009-10: 23,746
    2010-11: 30,832 (uplift mainly down to Icelandic ash cloud)
    2011-12 38,828 (additional trains from September 12th 2011)
    2012-13: 47,592 (FGH 35,520, FGW: 12,072 (from May 14th 2012))

    So taking the Icelandic cloud increase as a short term blip, the average loadings in the years prior to the additional trains starting was around 24,500 while the first full financial year (April to March) gave 47,592, an increase of 23,146 which compares with a forecast increase of around 21,000 in the final consultant report prior to funding agreement. This was with Goodwick station only open for 10.5 months of the year.

    It needs to be mentioned that with issues surrounding the availability of discounted tickets to Goodwick station in the first year or more after opening, together with a preference of some local travellers to continue using the Harbour station it would be seriously incorrect to assume that all Harbour passengers are ferry users.

    Numerous local passenger traffic also takes advantage of the boat trains, particularly on a Sunday afternoon.

    It needs to be recalled that during the Icelandic ash cloud period train services were seriously strengthened, consideration was given to running FGW HSTs, while services were frequently formed of 5 to 7 vehicles. Those loadings have not continued, although some uplift in ferry foot passengers are likely as low cost airlines become less low cost.

    Average load factors need to be considered with care. Firstly 3 of the additional 10 services are effectively positioning moves at start and end of service – at 30% of the additional trains that is a higher percentage than the positioning moves for say Milford or Pembroke.

    The Fishguard additional trains also provide additional trains into and out of Swansea, such as in the evening peak. As an example prior to our extra trains Swansea had the 17:05 to Milford, it now has a 16:40 to Milford and a 17:05 to Fishguard – withdrawal of the funding would take away one of those 2 trains too, both of which load well and would struggle to squeeze onto one 3 car set . Clarbeston Road and Clunderwen now enjoy an hourly service Eastbound from around 06:30 to 11:30 as opposed to the previous generally 2 hourly service, while Whitland now also has an improved service.

    • Rhydgaled

      Indeed, divide passenger numbers by 6 or 7 rather than 10, to take account of the effectively ECS services, and the average number of passengers per train improves quite nicely.

      Has anyone here traveled on the first morning train out of Fishguard (to Clarbeston Road), or know someone who has? If so, do many passengers use it? or is it a fourth ECS working? If passengers do use it, would they still do so if the 08:04 service ran a little earlier to arrive Carmarthen at 08:45 to make it more useful for commuters?

  7. Blocking Back

    No services to/from Fishguard are Empty Coaching Stock, but they are frequently empty.

    The first service up in the morning frequently has only one passenger and rarely more than 2 or 3.

    The 1900 Fishguard to Clarby service is also very poorly used. There is usually only one passenger on board and it runs empty approximately three nights per week.

  8. Swansea Jack, do you have more details of the final consultant report that forecast the increase of around 21,000 passengers? Were factors such as Fishguard & Goodwick station, the Stena Lynx fast ferry (axed just before Fishguard’s rail revival) and the gappy timetable considered?

    Blocking Back, soon after the draft timetables were published some users of this site began to refer to some of the new services as ECS moves because that is effectively what they are, although they are actually run in service and can in theroy carry passengers. We protested that those services should not be counted among the five trains each way we were promised. Sadly, they were counted and we effectively only have three new services into Fishguard and three or four outwards.

    There isn’t really an inbound service for day trippers to north Pembs. from further afield than Carmarthen, so the service is really about passengers from north Pembs. leaving in the morning and returning in the evening. Therefore two of the three morning trains into Fishguard and both of the evening trains are positioning moves (effectively ECS) necessary to provide the useful workings. And the useful workings are indeed useful, just look at the pictures above of the evening arrival. I’d hazzard a guess that you’d find a fair few passengers on the 08:04 and 09:56 out of Fishguard in the mornings too.

    I’m a bit dubious about the 06:56 Fishguard to Clarbeston Road, sure it’s nice to say you can get to Swansea by 9 and Cardiff by 10, but 06:56 is a rather early start for leisure travel. The commuter market to Swansea from as far out as Fishguard is probably pretty neglible also, and if that was really the target market a connection into the 07:30 Paddington train at Carmarthen might be more useful than a connection that doesn’t reach Swansea until 10 to nine.

  9. Swansea Jack

    The 06:53 Eastbound serves a different market to the 08:04 and 09:56 departures. The latter 2 are of use particularly for leisure journeys and have appeared to perform well. The 06:53 is required for those who travel to Swansea for business, and I am aware of a handful who use this semi-regularly for meetings in Cardiff / Swansea and for employment in Swansea on 2 or 3 occasions each week. This traffic would naturally take longer to develop than the leisure market, and has in the past been used for example by local students to access Trinity St Davids in Carmarthen.

    The 08:04 departure would be better as an 07:50 giving a more robust arrival time in Carmarthen for those working from 09:00.

    The afternoon / evening services: the choice is between a early afternoon Carmarthen to Fishguard followed by a 18:00 or later departure from Swansea; or from a service at 17:05 from Swansea with a later service to cover passengers returning from Cardiff or futher afield who would be discouraged from waiting until the night boat train. In a perfect word we’d ideally have 3 afternoon / evening trains Westbound but that option was not available. A 15:00 from Carmarthen added to the present service would be ideal, a return at around 16:00 would also provide a connection to London.

    The services were not based around the Stena Lynx fast cat service, although if it had continued it may have assisted in adding passenger numbers to the 06:42 Cardiff to Fishguard and the 19:00 Fishguard departure as the connections did work out quite well.

    The 06:42 Cardiff to Fishguard does allow for day trips to North Pembrokeshire. Derek Brockway in his Weatherman walking guise could easily catch that train to Goodwick, catch the coastal bus to Strumble Head or Garn Fawr and then walk back along the coast path to Goodwick for the 19:00 to Cardiff. 06:42 may be viewed as an early start, but the times from Swansea, Llanelli and Carmarthen should not be an issue. Preseli Venture visitors are regular users of the 16:05 from Cardiff / 17:05 from Swansea on Friday evening, heading back East on the Sunday afternoon boat train, and other short break and longer visitors have a range of services they can use.

    • Rhydgaled

      We argee on the 08:04 departure then, as I also think it would be better running slightly earlier to better serve commuters to Carmarthen.

      The questions with the 06:53 eastbound are:
      1. Whether the business market it exists for is big enough to justify not just that working but also the two ‘effectively ECS’ workings with a 3-car class 175 unit that result (particularly the morning Clarbeston Road to Fishguard service).
      2. Whether it too needs to run earlier to give a more robust arrival time in Swansea and Cardiff for those working/meeting at 09:00 in Swansea or 10:00 in Cardiff. They are big places and 11 minutes at the former and 14 at the latter seem a bit tight to me.

      The 06:42 Cardiff to Fishguard indeed does allow for day trips to North Pembrokeshire, but from east of Carmarthen it looks to be too early for leisure travellers, which is why I said “There isn’t really an inbound service for day trippers to north Pembs. from further afield than Carmarthen”.

      I asked about the Stena Lynx because, if the consultants assumed it would have been running their estimate of passenger numbers would have been higher. Similar, if they assumed a service to Carmarthen with no changes at Clarbeston Road they might also have come up with a higher figure. In either case, rather than the services meerly doing as well as predicted they would actually be doing better.

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