We Won! Fishguard service to be permanent

The three-year trial of increased rail services to Fishguard has ended in success. Welsh Government today announced that the service is to be extended to the end of Arriva’s franchise in 2018. 

Here is the government press release in full:

Monday 11 August 2014

Extra Fishguard to Carmarthen trains given the go-ahead

Transport Minister, Edwina Hart, has given the go-ahead to continue with the additional rail services between Fishguard and Carmarthen following a review of the three-year experimental service introduced in 2011.

Feedback from the local community, passengers and business on the extra five return services has been positive and research shows these additional services have brought economic and social benefits.

The Minister has now agreed to extend the service until the end of the current franchise in 2018.

She said:

“The extra services between Fishguard and Carmarthen have been very popular with passengers, helped improve access to services and provided a boost for tourism and other local businesses. The results of surveys with passengers, the local community and businesses point to a need for these extra services. These services have made it easier for people to access hospital services, have improved tourism to Pembrokeshire and have helped reduce reliance on cars.”

All stations in Pembrokeshire served by the services have experienced increased usage, with passenger numbers to Fishguard, Goodwick and Fishguard Harbour stations doubling since the introduction of the additional trains in 2011.

More than 60 per cent of passengers surveyed said they would not have been able to make their intended journey without the additional services. Businesses reported that the extra trains helped attract visitors to the area which saw increased usage of the coastal path and ferries to and from Ireland.

Cllr Rob Lewis, Cabinet Member for Transport said:

“The announcement by the Minister that the additional rail services to Fishguard are to continue is much welcomed and provides a much needed boost to the County. The additional services have resulted in significant increases in the number of people travelling to the area providing many benefits to the local economy, environment and social inclusion.”

Stephen Hale Chair of the North Pembrokeshire Transport Forum said:

“The North Pembrokeshire Transport forum is truly delighted that the enhanced train service to Fishguard and Goodwick is to continue. We are grateful to have been given the opportunity to demonstrate the positive benefits to the local economy and community that the additional trains have provided over the past three years.

We are pleased that the enhanced train service will continue to reduce the isolation felt by rural north Pembrokeshire and will work with our partners to ensure these services assist in strengthening the local economy, in particular the important tourist industry.”

Jeremy Martineau Honorary Secretary of the Chamber of Trade and Tourism said:

”This is great news and a sensible decision as we work hard at the regeneration of the area. Being able to travel by train is a boon to local residents, adds a significant opportunity to holiday makers and connects us to the rest of Wales in an environmentally responsible way. We have been pleased to help with the research which has advised the Minister to take the right decision for our entire community.“

17 Comments

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17 Responses to We Won! Fishguard service to be permanent

  1. No futher improvements then? Still, it may not be a decisive victory but a even a narrow victory is much better than defeat. Wonder if it will make tommorow’s BBC “Wales Today” news, which would be useful publicity to help further grow the numbers using the service.

    A doubling of passenger numbers in three years is not to be sniffed at. Going on the 30,000 passengers using Fishguard Harbour in 2010/11, does that mean this year’s combined figure for the two ‘Fishguard’ stations is 60,000? If so, that’s on a par with Whitland and Milford Haven, with Haverfordwest and Tenby being the only Pembrokeshire stations with significantly higher usage (I think).

  2. Swansea Jack

    A decisive victory in my book. 3 years ago we had a train service of 1 train each way at lunchtime and 1 return trip each way in the middle of the night to serve the Rosslare ferries. We now have a train service that has doubled the passenger numbers compared with the 3 year average before they commenced. I understand that Goodwick station continues to get busier month on month, and is around 50% busier this year than it was last year.

    Improvements of a small scale to timetables and bus connections etc will be ongoing, but bigger improvements like filling the long afternoon gap or Sunday evening services will only be possible when there are resources freed up by electrification projects to release more trains from elsewhere.

    The effort to promote the trains to build passenger numbers must continue so that we can justify further improvements like any extra trains and to justify keeping what we have from 2018 when the next franchise begins.

    Today is a day for celebration for North Pembrokeshire.

    • Martin Worsley

      What fabulous news indeed. Well done to all those who have worked so hard to promote a joined up approach. Very difficult to do given the highly politicised and fragmented nature of British transport. My next visit to the North Pembrokeshire coastline is in the planning. Staying in Fishguard and walking the coast path is a must for all. Many thanks again.

  3. 87J

    Great news and a tribute to all those who worked so hard to achieve this.
    As Swansea Jack says, the effort to build on this must continue to get ready for the 2018 franchise, to make sure that the current service, at least, is required as part of the new franchise contract.
    Hmmmm. Reopen Wolfs Castle ??

  4. The community survey did include some rather exciting offers, such as an additional service and removing the evening change at Clarbeston Road. If we’d got some of that it would have been a decisive victory, and not even the proposed bringing forward of the 08:04 to reach Carmarthen by 08:45 was mentioned in the above press release. If that would have been a decisive victory, simply retaining the service is something a bit less but is still very good news regardless.

    As for re-openning Wolfscastle, there’s nowhere for a car park. Before our trial service, I had hoped it would be an access point for passengers from Letterston, Scleddau etc. who would access it via the 412 bus. I have since decided that integrating bus and rail in a way that stands a chance of getting pepole to use it requires alot more than can realisticly be provided at Wolfscastle (perhaps even at FGW). Hence my objection to buses no longer serving Fishguard Harbour, it is obvious from the low numbers on the buses at FGW (despite the successful train service) that the current offering in terms of ‘connections’ is not sufficiently attractive. Wolfscastle station’s a lost cause I expect.

  5. 87J

    I think re-using the old Halt site would be problematic. However possibly local landowners could be persuaded to release some land on one or other side of the A40 bridge to allow a new Halt and some parking space + bus stop.

    • Blocking Back

      Having spoken to the PerWay about this, another major issue at Wolfscastle is that the line is now rated to a much higher speed than it was in the 1960s. Consequently, it would apparently be impossible to reinstate the halt at it’s original location due to the camber of the curve there.

  6. Irishman

    Great news. In my view the processes that brought these projects to fruition represent the very best of community involvement blended with rail industry, local authority and governmental bodies. A loud “well done” to all.

    Now I feel the task is one of growing usage further and tweaking the rail timetables, bus connections and facilities to optimise the service.

    It is a sheer pity that high fuel prices resulted in the end of the fast ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare in September 2011 (also). Were it to be feasible to reintroduce a fast ferry to Rosslare at a future date this would enhance connectivity across St.George’s Channel.

    A very dark cloud hangs over rail services in Ireland at present with industrial reaction threatened. As disruptive as several days of no trains will be it’s nothing compared to what may happen if Irish Rail cannot comprehensively address its financial sustainability position. One can only but hope that the end product isn’t one of service suspensions. In recent months a number of very unpleasant to read articles have appeared in the national and local media suggesting that line closures could happen. One article stated that the Dublin-Rosslare line may be curtailed to Enniscorthy.

    • Now I feel the task is one of growing usage further and tweaking the rail timetables, bus connections and facilities to optimise the service.

      On the subject of buses, an important development is expected (this year?) in the form of the proposed TrawsCymru T5 service. Personally, I feel the service as currently planned (a key part of which currently is the 412 service) is a mistake.

      TrawsCymru is supposed to be a network of strategic long-distance bus routes. Including the 412 in that doesn’t make sense as serving local needs by going via Fishguard trashes any hope it may have of being competitive for long-distance journies. I appreciate that without the local traffic it might never carry enough passengers to justify the subsidy, but if so why try to pretend it is a straegic long-distance service at all? And it presumably will just be the 412, with both Fishguard’s stations missed out despite the diversions to Trecwn, Mathry Road and even Fishguard itself. Thus, Newport, Dinas Cross etc. would have a flagship through service to Haverfordwest station, the T5, but would still have to change at Fishguard Town Hall for the 410 to Goodwick if they want to use the now-secured service.

      If you want something that really might stand a chance of being a strategic route then I suggest bringing back the old direct Aberystwyth – Cardigan X50 service and extending it a handful of times a day to Haverfordwest direct (avoiding Fishguard and Newport altogether) or to Fishguard Harbour. The latter might finally give the new(ish) rail service some decent connections (we had one, into the 08:04 from Fishguard Harbour) for a short time from Sept2011 until somebody decided buses should serve FGW instead, which is not fit-for-purpose (for bus connections, otherwise it isn’t bad as stations go).

  7. Irishman

    I’m not fully conversant and up to date with TrawsCymru but I believe there is potential for a direct route from Fishguard Harbour to Aberystwyth. Certainly if a service reached the Harbour around 13.10 and departed at around 13.30 it would serve the dual role of feeding to from the express boat train plus the Rosslare ferry arrival and departure. It would offer a fast and seamless way of travelling up the coast for tourists, both inbound tourism from Ireland as well as residents travelling to Ireland. There are Irish students attending Aberystwyth Uni. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Stena Line and TrawsCymru to offer through ticketing.

  8. Blocking Back

    Yes indeed, that is fantastic news!

    However, I would say ‘don’t rest on your laurels’, as the early and late services remain very poorly used and must surely be heavily subsidised. We really were expecting to see them go! So please keep up the good work and let’s keep those trains beyond 2018!

    Re the evening changes at Clarbeston Road:

    Some people are never satisfied… I think it HIGHLY unlikely that Arriva (or their successor) would provide an extra train for the very few people who typically use that service. The changes represent a very efficient use of existing trains and aren’t very onerous compared to changes at many other stations, in that there are no platform changes to make and the waiting time is very short:

    For Up passengers in the evening, the 2E33 service from Fishguard rolls into Clarbeston Road at 1922hrs and the passengers are then picked up by the 1B41 from Milford Haven at 1929hrs – a total wait of just 7 minutes.

    For Down passengers, the 1V46 Manchester-Milford service arrives in Clarbeston Road at 2000hrs and the 2E34 service to Fishguard then leaves at 2005hrs – a total wait of just 5 minutes.

    These manoeuvres involve some fairly complicated shenanigans for the signallers at Clarbeston Road who incidentally, have for many years been heavily involved in lobbying for the new services and the re-opening of Goodwick. The signallers were instrumental in demonstrating to Network Rail how the moves could be handled efficiently despite very narrow path margins.

    I’d also add that for the last year there have been passenger information screens at Clarbeston Road, so passengers can be reassured that their connecting service is actually on its way.

    • Removing the evening change was more about getting a better last service from Cardiff. If I recall correctly, what the community survey asked was something like “a later evening service from Cardiff, removing the need to change at Clarbeston Road”. My suggestion was a service leaving Cardiff arround 18:00 and running via the Swansea District Line. It would thus pretty much catch up with the 17:39 to Milford Haven and could connect into it at Carmarthen. Thus, passengers for both Milford and Fishguard services could avoid the ‘sardine express’ out of Cardiff, using my proposed 18:00 SDL service instead, and arriving at their destinations only slightly later. If you have that unit from the SDL service at Carmarthen anyway, I figured you might as well make use of it to remove the change at Clarbeston too, but the real benifit is avoiding that sardine train and the later connections from London etc. that you get by leaving Cardiff later.

  9. Irishman

    I hadn’t really thought of the signalling side of matters before and would wholeheartedly compliment the signallers for their input – it’s always good to have people on the ground with first hand expertise involved.
    Unfortunately my most recent experience, a few months ago, of the customer information screen at Clarbeston Road was anything but informative or reassuring.

    Upon alighting at Platform 2 (from the Milford Haven bound service to catch the 20.05 to Fishguard) I glanced at the info screen. It displayed info about trains to elsewhere later in the evening but there was no mention whatsoever of the imminent Fishguard Harbour departure. It was also possible to discern the text on the info screen on the opposite platform and it didn’t mention the Fishguard service either. Myself and several other passengers (unknown to me) who had alighted hovered for a minute or two unsure whether to cross the bridge to platform 1 or not.

    Presently the lights of a train came into view and the train soon stopped at platform 2. Soon we were on our way to Fishguard. Having not used this particular Fishguard train before I was both surprised and dismayed that it was not shown on the customer information screen at Clarbeston Road and thus engendered confusion for myself and the other passengers. I duly brought the matter to the attention of ATW and presume it has been rectified for some time at this stage.

    On the subject of signalling I read recently that Clarbeston Road box is due to close in 2018. It will be sad to see this happen. I wonder where will the line be controlled from after this date and will the subsequent signalling arrangements have potential to affect services in any way.

    • Spad

      The train indicator at Clarbeston has NEVER (in our regular experience) displayed the 20:05 Fishguard train. See our next post – 20:05 to Fishguard? What 20:05?

    • Blocking Back

      I’d also add that while Clarbeston Road Signal Box will one day close and its functions transferred to the ‘Fuehrerbunker’ in Cardiff, it is by no means imminent and it will certainly not happen in 2018. 2028 is probably closer to the mark.

      Lastly, I’d just like to clarify that all ‘Up’ services (i.e. to Whitland, Carmarthen and all points to Vladivostok) from Clarbeston Road leave from Platform 1, while all ‘Down’ services to H’West, Milford Haven and Fishguard leave from Platform 2.

      The reason for this is that there is no bi-directional signalling of the type you see in Platform 1 in H’West (i.e. there’s a main-aspect signal at each end of the platform with associated electronic interlocks, allowing departures in either direction). The small ‘subsidiary’ signals you see at Clarbeston Road may only be used by freight and empty coaching stock shunting and not by loaded passenger trains, so anyone wanting to take a ‘jolly’ return trip from Fishguard to Clarbeston Road and back actually has to get out and go over the bridge while the train changes platforms. In any case, there isn’t a shunting signal at the ‘Down’ end of Platform 1, so it isn’t possible to set a train off to Fishguard from that position.

  10. Goodbye 08:04. The December 2014 timetable shows Fishguard Harbour will have a 07:50 service to Manchester instead, reaching Carmarthen at 08:43.

    So, Fishguard Harbour departures, MON-SAT:
    06:47 to Clarbeston Road (‘connection’ 17 minues later),
    07:50 to Manchester,
    09:54 to Carmarthen (one minute earlier on Saturdays),
    13:29 flyer to Cardiff (one minute later on Saturdays),
    19:08 (19:00 SAT) to Clarbeston Road (‘connection’ 4 minutes later (9 on SAT)),
    20:50 to Carmarthen (21:00 on SAT)

    And arrivals:
    06:44 from Carmarthen (2 mins later SAT),
    07:44 from Clarbeston Road,
    09:47 from Cardiff,
    13:27 (13:19 SAT) flyer from Newport,
    18:56 from Gloucester (18:51 on Saturdays),
    20:29 (20:54 SAT) from Clarbeston Road (5 minute connection)

    All three morning trains arrive between xx:44 and xx:47, so why the variation in departure times? Why not a standard clockface depature, eg. 53 minutes past each hour (xx:56 at Fishguard & Goodwick)? That particular slot would reduce the wait early-risers (which certainly do not include me) have at Clarbeston Road from 17 minutes to 11.

    The journey time is pretty static though, 50-odd minutes to Carmarthen. That is worrying with Edwina Hart and Carwyn Jones starting to get interested in Paul Davies’ scheme to dual the A40. There’s also another ‘extended bypass’ of around 2.3 miles (Llanddewi Velfrey to the A478 roundabout) in WAG’s transport plan that is being brought forward. Hard to take governments seriously about wanting modal shift to public transport when they promote policies like that.

    The Swansea District Line appears to have lost a fair amount of freight traffic recently too, extremely bad news for jobs and potentially the environment. On a slightly brighter note, the renewed government interest in our area might be a chance to get some rail improvements for the area (probably the Milford Haven line this time, rather than Fishguard), if we can distract them from their pet road schemes for long enough.

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