Ten minutes – good news and bad news

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Valley Lines and South Wales Main Line will be electrified, and the two governments have settled their funding dispute. Now it’s full speed ahead for Wales’ first ever rail electrification.

Splendid news, and credit to new Welsh Secretary Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb for prioritising solutions over disputes. It promises the best possible future for public transport throughout south-east Wales. And that is despite some media commentators finding no better way of explaining the benefits of electrification than shaving ten minutes off the Cardiff to Merthyr and Treherbert times. It is so much more than that.

But at the same time, ten minutes and more is the bad news for travellers to Fishguard and the west. Arriva’s timetable from December 14th onwards contains some nasty surprises. Here’s just one comment from a Fishguard Trains regular:

The winter timetable from Fishguard is going to add about 15 minutes to the journey to Swansea and beyond. The 06.47 first train will lead to a long wait of 17 minutes at Clarbeston Road for the Milford service; is the shelter there good enough for such a wait in winter weather? The second train, moved forward to 07.50 is going to sit in Carmarthen station for 17 minutes before moving on, on the old timetable. This is going to discourage use of these trains. All this to satisfy a whim at Cardiff about getting commuters to Carmarthen. Fishguard is getting a very raw deal; is a journey time of THREE HOURS to Cardiff acceptable – 37 mph average speed? I think this is one to shout from the roof tops and to Stephen Crabb.

 Do you agree that this is a whim from Arriva’s Cardiff  head office?

Do you support prioritising local commuter traffic between Fishguard and Carmarthen over long-distance travellers?

With only seven trains a day each way, timetabling is always going to be a juggle of compromises.   Has Arriva got this one right or wrong? If ten minutes less is such good news for Merthyr, is ten minutes more equally bad news for Fishguard?

Let’s hear your views, and we’ll make sure Stephen Crabb does – though with the franchise renewal now in Welsh hands, perhaps this is one for Carwyn.

 

7 Comments

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7 Responses to Ten minutes – good news and bad news

  1. I don’t think you should bother Crabb with this, not just yet anyway. What he needs to deal with, right now, rail-wise is ensuring the capacity of the London-Swansea service is maintained after electrification. At the moment it is looking like some of the current 8-carriage INTERCITY 125s will be replaced by 5-car new trains, resulting in less seats on many services and also in total, across the day. If you’re interested in more details on this, drop me an e-mail.

    As you say, the matter of the Wales & Borders franchise is being devolved to Cardiff Bay, so the Welsh Government should probably be the target Also, they are the ones pushing to make the road links in and out of Pembrokeshire faster. Against that, I don’t think the 17 minute wait at Carmarthen on the 07:50 service matters all that much given the potential benifit for commuting especially considering that, at 1hr 48mins, the journey time from Carmarthen to Cardiff on that service isn’t much to write home about. In this case, I’m not sure it is worth worrying about the little sneeze of a 17 minute wait on a train at a reasonablly well equiped station when there are more serious, and widespread, illnesses lurking.

    The extended wait at Clarbeston though is most definately NOT GOOD ENOUGH and something ought to be done about it. As I posted the other day, can’t the first three trains each leave the harbour at 53 minutes past the hour? That would reduce the wait at Clarbeston somewhat.

  2. Swansea Jack

    I think the morning re-timings are a great idea. The 08:04 becoming the 07:50 Fishguard to Manchester will allow commuters reach Carmarthen – a key jobs market for North and Mid-Pemrokeshire with sufficient time to reach their employment site. It means my wife will in future always use the train rather than at times having to rely on her car on the 2 or 3 days a week she works in her Carmarthen office as an 08:43 arrival is so much more useful than an 08:56 one. On the down side, yes it extends through journey times on that service to locations East of Carmarthen because of the extended stop – I’ll use that to visit the Coracle Buffet! The added wait at Clarby Road off the first morning departure is also a minor inconvenience in comparison with the benefits.

    We have a limited number of train services from North Pembrokeshire resultant from a small local population. Encouraging locals to look for work in Carmarthen seems sensible – service sector employment in shops, calls centres and offices are always going to be more likely in Carmarthen which increasingly acts as the regional centre for shopping and business for West Wales. Now we have the train service, secured for the future which will encourage people to look for employment there.

    I don’t see these changes reducing use of the trains at all, but they will provide opportunities for new commuter flows – flows that found the old train times unsuited to 09:00 hours start times in Carmarthen. From memory getting an earlier arrival into Carmarthen off the second Fishguard departure was one option suggested in last June’s survey. It is great to see that some notice was taken of issues in the survey beyond the continuance of the additional trains. With Cardiff Bay rather than Westminster controlling the future Wales rail franchise this change suggested by the survey actually being taken up is great news!

  3. JOHN HUGHES

    Swansea Jack raises a perfectly valid point about encouraging commuter traffic, but why does the train have to wait so long at Carmarthen before proceeding ? There’s nothing on the line in front of it as far as Swansea – at least it could make that station in a reasonable time and give Carmarthen ‘commuters’ an earlier time into Swansea; the train is already very popular with Pembrey and Llanelli commuters and they might well appreciate an earlier arrival at Swansea. Network Rail in its track survey pre-2010 pointed out that the West Wales line is at a disadvantage with the road links via the M4 and we should be seeking to minimise that rather than exaggerating it. There is already a fairly long wait at Swansea and Cardiff with the train in any case.

    • I do think it might be better if the long wait on the 07:50 Fishguard train was at Swansea instead of Carmarthen, but as you say the line to Cardiff is at a severe time disadvantage anyway. That’s why I don’t see the 17min wait as too much of a drawback, time-sensitive passengers will have been lost to us already so an extra 17 minutes might not make much difference. Travel from Fishguard to Swansea by rail is (currently) more competitive than to Cardiff though, which is why leaving Carmarthen at 08:46ish and defering the long wait until Swansea could be a better option.

      And in the slightly longer term (the next franchise that replaces ATW’s current one), we need to tackle the disadvantage to Cardiff, but until we do that perhaps the journey time to doesn’t matter quite so much.

      The real loser though is the early morning shuttle to Clarbeston Road. I was almost starting to get uncomfortable this morning after only about 8 minutes waiting for a bus around 9am. And we haven’t reached winter propper yet. I dread to think what waiting 17 minutes at Clarbeston Road at 7:15ish would do to passengers’ perceptions of that service.

      • Swansea Jack

        Unfortunately in order to get the train down to the Harbour for the 07:50 departure required the 06:53 shuttle to depart a little earlier. It is unfortunate but worth it to make the 07:50 useful for Carmarthen commuters.

        I appreciate the suggestions that having arrived in Carmarthen somewhat earlier then the train should continue forward to Swansea earlier too, but considerations of bus connections into the service at Carmarthen and ATW trying to have a more regular departure time of the Manchester trains form Carmarthen may play a part here too. I feel certain that the whole timetable across South Wales from Carmarthen to Newport needs a wholesale review at some stage, no doubt it will happen post electrification and now that Gowerton has been redoubled the major limitation caused by the old single track has gone.

        I have it on good authorituy that the bus connection into the 07:53 from Goodwick is maintained which is also important.

        It is good that we are now able to discuss items such as slight re-timings on this site rather than the old ‘ can we have more than two trains a day please’ of previous eras.

        • How long do the turn-rounds need to be? If five minutes is enough, the wait at Clarbeston Road could still be reduced from 17 minutes to 10 I think.

          If the bus times don’t change, the connection into the new 07:53 will be better than the present 20 minute wait from the bus arriving at 07:47 and the train at 08:07, although if the bus went past the station before the Goodwick town centre stop (thus dropping passengers on the correct side of the road for the station, and therefore slightly closer to the train) it would be even better. Still think the buses should use the harbour station rather than Fishguard & Goodwick which in terms of facilities is (perhaps understandably) no better than Clarbeston Road.

          • JOHN HUGHES

            If we have to wait for an overhaul of the timetable in South Wales (surely long overdue,as it seems to be fossilised) would it not be a good idea if the single track junction with the main line at Swansea was remodelled to double track – this would surely help the timetabling process? At the moment it undoes some of the good work in redoubling the Gowerton section. Smarter use of the junction here could only help West Wales timings, given the unavoidable 20 mph crawl down from Cocket, and it might even help the occasional Incredibly Expensive Passenger Train to creep up the bank on its auxiliary diesel engines (if IEPs ever get to Carmarthen).

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