Tears by the Towy

live bus times display

before the last cuts

The time is 19:25, on a chilly winter evening in Carmarthen. The 19:02 is late arriving from Cardiff and Swansea, and now it has left the station for Tenby, 20 minutes late. On the deserted platform, a woman is in tears. She has missed the last connecting bus to Aberystwyth. That bus left on time at 19:07. No one can help her. Arriva Trains Wales is not responsible for missed bus connections. Bus operators don’t have to wait for trains.

19:02 to 19:07 leaves just five minutes to connect from train to bus. Long enough when the train is on time at Carmarthen. It might even make sense if the bus was guaranteed to wait, or if transport operators were required to pick up the pieces when it didn’t. But none of that is true.¬† The result, when the train is delayed a few minutes¬† – a woman in tears on Carmarthen station.

That night changed our view about the campaign to restore rail between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. Before, we suspected the ambition of reopening the rail link was unrealistic. Now we realise that reopening is about social justice and also about a Wales that wants to create connections for a successful economy. A country which gives no guarantee that we can travel between our major centres after seven o’clock, and where to do so risks spending the night on Carmarthen Station is signalling a clear message: failure.

So Fishguard Trains is delighted to hear from Rob Phillips about the recently formed Carmarthen-Aberystwyth Rail Link Campaign – Traws Link Cymru. The campaign already has over 160 members, and a new website: www.trawslinkcymru.org.uk

Rob Phillips writes to us: “We’d really like to work with you – especially with the review of the extra trains coming up – we can send out messages to our supporters etc but we’d also like your help. Could you help us publicise the campaign and get our website and Facebook Group better known please? We’re also keen to spread the word about a debate called next week [on March 12th] in the Assembly by Simon Thomas AM on re-instating the line and encourage people to let their AMs know how they feel?”

We are delighted to support Traws Link Cymru. And we invite Assembly members to consider if leaving travellers in tears on Carmarthen Station really is the best we can do.

5 Comments

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5 Responses to Tears by the Towy

  1. Nigel Bird

    I can only echo your comments which are spot on.It’s criminal.In 2014 Wales urgently needs a real connected railway system that does not rely on going over the Border to get from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth.It maybe alongish wait but tell the lady to hang on, the railway to Aber is coming back…………..

  2. I think there is some merit in the idea of new a Carmarthen – Aberystwyth rail link, and I’m likely to say more on this issue in future.

    For now though, I would just like to point out that not everywhere can have a rail link. For example, Fishguard (as opposed to Goodwick) and Newport (Pembs) have never had one. That means, rather than just concentrating on rail, we need to make buses work too. More on that later too.

    • Spad

      To reply to Rhydgaled: “We need to make buses work too” – AGREED. Fishguard Trains doesn’t simply want more trains, or more buses, or bikes, or boats. We want one, fully integrated, all-Wales public transport system. Hands up anyone who doesn’t.
      “Not everywhere can have a rail link” – OK, BUT SO WHAT? Restoring rail from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth (and onwards to Bangor) is not about connecting Pencader, or Lampeter, or even Aberystwyth. It is about re-connecting Wales. That’s a big agenda, and nothing less will do.

  3. Blocking Back

    And how much is that going to cost the Welsh taxpayer?

    We’ve already got five new trains per day to Fishguard and a new station that hardly anybody uses, despite the best efforts of this website and all the best will in the world. The number of passengers on those trains can frequently be counted on my fingers (the early service is frequently empty or has only one solitary passenger) and I remain to be convinced that the full service will remain once the three-year review comes round.

    However, there hasn’t been a massive investment in terms of infrastructure, so the losses are minimal and the Welsh Government might be happy to fund the shortfall in order to keep the service running.

    However, re-opening the line to Aberystwyth is going to require MASSIVE investment and long-term sustainability to justify that expense. Do they even have a rough estimate of the initial cash outlay and annual running costs? How many passengers will they need to attract to keep that running and at what ticket pricing structure? Are those numbers viable? How much quicker will it be than taking the bus? If taking the full route all the way to Bangor, will it be any quicker than simply going mainline via Newport and Crewe?

    I wish them the best of luck and agree entirely that there should be closer coordination between buses and trains (is the passenger mentioned in the example above not entitled to compensation and/or a taxi if the train company causes her to miss her bus?).

    However, were I examining the viability of the proposed route, I would first look at the claims that were originally made for potential passenger numbers between Fishguard and Clarbeston Road and compare that with the ACTUAL numbers of people who put their money where their mouth was and actually used the service. I seriously doubt that the two figures bear any resemblance to each other. That might give a more realistic idea of the number of people who will actually use the proposed line.

    I’m reminded of the old military maxim: ‘Never Reinforce Failure’.

    • I’ll get around to saying more about Carmarthen – Aberystwyth in due course, but since this is the FISHGUARD TRAINS website:

      Spare that axe, the predicted first year increase for an enhanced Fishguard service (which I’m guessing was based on a train every 2hrs to/from Carmarthen and FGW open from the outset) was 20,000 journeys. Remember that FGW wasn’t open for the first few months (actually more than a few, over 6 in fact) and rather than every 2hrs there is still one gap of over 5hrs between trains.

      Despite (probably) getting a poorer service than that the predictions were based on, the first year increase was actually very close to the 20,000 additional journies predicted.

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