Stena disrupts Fishguard trains

Stena Europe sail from Fishguard

Altered ferry sailing times between Fishguard to Rosslare, introduced suddenly by Stena, have disrupted train services all the way from Fishguard to Cardiff

  • BREAKING NEWS – for latest developments see end of this post

Brought in with only two weeks notice, new sailing times from May 22 2017 affect all sailings between the Welsh and Irish ports.  From Fishguard, the 2:30 night sailing now leaves at 23:45, and the afternoon 14:30 ferry now sails at 13:10. The morning sailing from Rosslare now berths at Fishguard at 11:15 (previously 12:30), and the night sailing berths at Fishguard at 21:25 (previously 00:30). Whether or not these changes will please Stena’s customers (and it is not easy to meet the diverse needs of foot passengers, drivers, and international freight), the impact on Fishguard will be dramatic.

Until May 2017, the interchange between trains and ferries in both directions was seamless. A train brought passengers to all sailings, and a train was ready to meet passengers off all ships. But no longer. The 21:25 evening arrival from Ireland is met by a new train that leaves at 22:14. But this train goes no further than Carmarthen. Unless passengers from Ireland have business there, expect a long cold overnight wait for the first morning train east. For years, the night train from Fishguard has taken travellers overnight all the way to London, and now it has simply disappeared. In its place, a new 22:14 service abandons you in Carmarthen.

Another loss is the removal of the 17:40 service from Cardiff, changing at Clarbeston Road – we know it as the Sardine Express. It has simply disappeared.

A further change is the loss of the express mid-morning through service from Cardiff to Fishguard. In its place, you catch a 10:04 from Cardiff, but have to change at Swansea for a new Fishguard service arriving at 12:30. There are further detailed changes to services throughout the day to and from Fishguard. Overall, our service of seven trains a day each way is now cut back to six. Were we ever asked?

The news is not all bad for rail travellers. replacing the 17:40 service from Cardiff, a new service leaves the capital at 19:04, changing at Carmarthen to reach Fishguard Harbour at 22:02. This may be welcome news for travellers wanting a later departure from London or Cardiff, but still arriving before midnight.

What is astonishing is that these changes are driven by Stena, a private ferry company, but will impact rail travellers across Wales, without any consultation or debate.

Fishguard Trains suspects that Arriva was caught seriously off guard by Stena’s news, and may try to do something to restore services later in 2017. But this is no way to plan and run an international rail-sail link. As we have covered in the past, this is a link between two European regions, and subject to European laws meant to protect the integrity of international travel. Has Brexit emboldened Stena to ignore the European dimension?

For us, the worry is that the disruption of passenger links between Ireland and Wales through Fishguard (and inevitable reduction of rail passenger numbers) will undermine Wales’ ability to compete in future, when Northern Ireland becomes the favoured route for traffic between the Irish republic and the UK – a prospect that already concerns Welsh Government. Bad news for Fishguard, and bad news for Wales.

Detail of ferry hull

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

May 23 2017

Fishguard Trains hears a whisper that Arriva is still playing catch-up with Stena’s disruptive new timetable. It may be that the 22:14 train from Fishguard that meets passengers off the Rosslare ferry (that now berths at 21:25) is to be extended from its unhelpful terminus at Carmarthen – but only as far as Swansea. At least they are going in the right direction. More news when it reaches the end of the line.

One more push, and Arriva might make it to Pyle. Did someone want Paddington? That’s so last century.

May 24 2017

Extension of the night boat train from Fishguard is confirmed. The 22:14 from Fishguard Harbour will now continue to Swansea, arr. 00:09. These times do not appear in Arriva’s West Wales Timetable for May-December 2017. Here are the full times (plus connections if you don’t mind a near-four hour wait at Swansea to reach Cardiff and London):

22:14  Fishguard Harbour 

22:17  Fishguard and Goodwick

22:36  Clarbeston Road request

22:43  Clunderwen request

22:50  Whitland

23:11  Carmarthen

23:22  Ferryside request

23:28  Kidwelly request

23:35  Pembrey

23:43  Llanelli

23:50  Gowerton

00:09  Swansea arr.

03:52  Swansea dep.

05:11  Cardiff Central

07:30  Paddington

 

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