Fishguard timetable: the devil’s in the detail

Two months after the former Transport Minister announced funding for five extra daily return trains to Fishguard, the Welsh Government today launches the timetable for public consultation.

In these two months, we’ve not only had a change of government and change of Minister, but also an early round of consultations with key players. The Welsh Government’s Rail Unit explains: “The preferred timetable follows a first round of consultation with Arriva Trains Wales, the North Pembrokeshire Transport Forum, All Points West Community Rail Partnership and the Regional Transport Consortium SWWITCH.” Which means that the timetable published today has already had some Fishguard input into the first draft, originally proposed by rail operator Arriva.

So how well have they done? Here’s the draft timetable exactly as launched today (red times are direct to/from Fishguard, black are connections):

Swansea 7.50 11.37 16.40 18.09 23.45
Carmarthen arr 8.40
Carmarthen dep 5.50 5.58
9.00 11.23 17.32 19.02 00.33
Whitland 6.04 6.13 9.04 12.44 17.51 19.38 00.48
Clarbeston Rd arr
6.27
Clarbeston Rd dep 6.16 7.33 9.19 11.31 18.07 19.54 01.02
Fishguard 6.41 7.57 9.41 13.25 18.34 20.16 01.29

 

Fishguard 1.50 6.53 8.06 9.55 13.30 18.49 20.26
Clarbeston Rd 2.10 8.25 10.14 19.08 20.46
Whitland arr 7.16
19.22
Whitland dep 2.22 7.41 8.39 10.28 14.02 19.44 20.59
Carmarthen arr 8.01 10.48 14.19 20.05 21.18
Carmarthen dep 2.44 8.57 11.04 14.31 22.35
Swansea arr 3.29 8.49 9.50 11.51 15.22 20.47 23.45

No question about it, that’s many more trains than Fishguard has today. What’s more, we were promised a shuttle between Fishguard and Carmarthen, but this timetable includes a new through service to Swansea, and a new through service from Cardiff to Fishguard. Some reasons to be cheerful.

But when you look closer, some very strange timings leap out of this draft.

HIGH SPEED TRAIN

First there’s a morning train that leaves Carmarthen at 9.00, and Whitland at 9.04. That’s 4 minutes for a journey that should take 17 minutes. Clerical error?

THE LONG WAIT

Next, one of the five new trains from Carmarthen involves changing at Clarbeston Road, with a wait of 1 hour 6 minutes.

Carmarthen dep 5.58
Whitland 6.13
Clarbeston Rd arr
6.27
Clarbeston Rd dep 7.33
Fishguard 7.57

Unlike the four minute dash from Carmarthen to Whitland, this is no typo. Does someone really think passengers will wait over an hour for a connection at Clarbeston Road, at half past six in the morning?

COMMUTING TO CARMARTHEN

Of the ten new services between Fishguard and Carmarthen, six are direct and take around 52 minutes, which is competitive with driving. But two of these direct services have odd timings – 41 minutes which must be a mistake, and 1 hr 2 min, which needs explaining.

The remaining four journeys involve a change at Whitland or Clarbeston Road, and take anything from 1 hr 8 min to two hours. None of these journeys will appeal to anyone with the option of driving.

SIESTA

Then there’s the erratic timing of the whole service. Two of the five daily trains leave Carmarthen for Fishguard before six in the morning. Yet there’s no service from Carmarthen to Fishguard between 11:23 in the morning and 17:32 in the evening.

Likewise travelling east, there’s no train out of Fishguard after the lunchtime boat train at 13.30, until 18.49 in the evening. This draft timetable offers morning and evening services, but nothing in the afternoon. What is the rationale for two trains leaving Carmarthen for Fishguard before 6 am, and none in the afternoon? How well does this fulfil the purpose of “five extra trains for Fishguard”? Is this the way to maximise take-up of the new service?

EAST OF SWANSEA

But perhaps the most critical details concern eastward connections. London, Cardiff and Swansea were the most wanted destinations in North Pembrokeshire Transport Forum’s 2004 passenger survey. The draft timetable published today stops at Swansea. How well does it serve Cardiff and London travellers? Fishguard Trains has taken the draft timetable and added in more connections using the current timetables:

Manchester 7.30 11.30 13.30 18.30
Holyhead 5.51 10.33 16.38
Birmingham 8.30 12.42 14.30 19.30
Hereford 5.25 9.33 14.11 15.49 20.54
Bristol TM 9.54 13.54 15.21 21.19
London Padd. 8.45 12.45 14.15 20.15
Cardiff 6.42
10.57 15.30 17.04 22.26
Swansea 7.50 11.37 16.40 18.09 23.45
Carmarthen arr 8.40 18.57 00.31
Carmarthen dep 5.50 5.58 9.00 11.23 17.32 19.02 00.33
Fishguard 6.41 7.57 9.41 13.25 18.34 20.16 01.29

How disappointing that of the five extra trains to Fishguard, only three serve anywhere east of Carmarthen, and only two serve London, Birmingham and Manchester. Do trains from Fishguard fare any better?

Fishguard 1.50 6.53 8.06 9.55 13.30 18.49 20.26
Carmarthen arr 2.39 7.55 8.57 10.48 14.19 20.00 21.18
Carmarthen dep 2.44 8.01 9.00 11.04 14.25 20.05 22.35
Swansea arr 3.29 8.49 9.50 11.51 15.22 20.47 23.32
Swansea dep 3.57 8.55 9.55 11.55 20.57
Cardiff arr 5.02 9.46 10.48 12.47 16.04 21.50
Cardiff dep 5.14 9.55 10.50 12.50 16.25 21.55
London Paddington 7.32 12.02 13.06 15.08 18.24
Bristol TM 7.18 11.18 12.18 14.18 17.53 23.49
Hereford 6.17 11.06 11.51 13.53 17.51 23.05
Birmingham 8.26 12.26 13.45 15.26 18.26
Holyhead 10.14 16.15 20.49
Manchester 9.11 13.15 14.15 16.15 19.49

This is a much stronger timetable. All five of the new trains connect to Swansea, four to Cardiff, three to London, Birmingham and Manchester. Better still, it appears that two morning trains from Fishguard are planned to be through to Manchester. Strangely, the public consultation does not spell this out, leaving us to guess at what happens down the line.

OUR FIRST VERDICT?

Could do better, much better. The through services to Swansea, Cardiff and Manchester are very good news, but the complete lack of afternoon services is bizarre in a county that relies on tourism! Having to change between Fishguard and Carmarthen on four of the ten new services is unwelcome. Finally, timetabling two trains to Fishguard before 6 am undermines the promise of “five extra trains”.

No doubt Arriva has to move trains into position at the start of the day. But should they be paid to do so by Welsh taxpayers, and thereby prevent a passenger-friendly timetable to help the service prove its worth in three short years?

USE THE CONSULTATION!

Now it’s our opportunity to say how the new service could be better. But time is short. We have only until Friday 17th June to propose better use of the public subsidy in the interests of North Pembrokeshire travellers.

You’ll find full details of the Welsh Government community consultation here on the Fishguard Trains website.

* For comparison, here is the timetable suggested by Fishguard Trains back in April:

Fishguard 1.50 7.24 10.00 12.30 13.30 15.00 17.26
Clarbeston Rd 2.10 7.51 10.27 12.57 13.57 15.27 17.53
Clunderwen 7.59 10.35 13.05 15.35 18.01
Whitland 2.22 8.05 10.41 12.71 14.02 15.41 18.07
Carmarthen arr 2.39 8.20 10.56 13.26 14.19 15.56 18.22
Carmarthen dep 2.44 8.30 11.04 14.05 14.22 16.05 18.31
Swansea arr 3.25 9.23 11.51 14.49 15.23 16.48 19.23
Swansea dep 3.57 9.28 11.55 14.55 16.55 19.29
Cardiff arr 5.02 10.22 12.47 15.47 16.04 17.47 20.22
Cardiff dep 5.14 10.25 16.05
London 7.32 12.23 15.08 18.02 18.24 19.54 22.45
Bristol TM 6.42 11.53 13.53 16.53 18.55 21.44
Cheltenham 7.34 11.56 14.34 17.35 19.34 22.14
Birmingham 8.26 12.45 15.26 18.26 20.28 23.27
Holyhead 10.05 18.19 20.49 22.56 2.15
Manchester 9.15 14.15 16.15 19.15 19.49 21.15
Manchester 5.05 6.43 8.30 10.30 13.30 18.30
Holyhead 5.32 6.55 8.55
Birmingham 5.42 8.30 9.30 11.30 14.30 19.30
Hereford 5.25 7.42 8.42 10.38 12.38 15.38 21.01
Bristol TM 7.54 10.54 12.54 15.54 21.19
London 6.45 8.45 9.45 11.45 14.45 20.15
Cardiff 6.42 9.04 10.54 12.04 14.04 17.04 22.26
Swansea 7.50 10.00 13.02 15.00 18.09 23.45
Carmarthen arr 8.40 10.51 13.44 15.42 19.00 00.27
Carmarthen dep 8.50 11.15 13.55 16.05 19.10 00.30
Whitland 9.05 11.30 12.34 14.10 16.20 19.25 00.45
Clunderwen 9.11 11.36 14.16 16.26 19.31
Clarbeston Rd 9.19 11.44 14.24 16.34 19.39 00.59
Fishguard 9.46 12.11 13.15 14.51 17.01 20.06 01.26
Fishguard 1.50 6.53 8.06 9.55 13.30 18.49 20.26
Carmarthen arr 2.39 7.55 8.57 10.48 14.19 20.00 21.18
Carmarthen dep 2.44 8.01 9.00 11.04 14.25 20.05 22.35
Swansea arr 3.29 8.49 9.50 11.51 15.22 20.47 23.32
Swansea dep 3.57 8.55 9.55 11.55 20.57
Cardiff arr 5.02 9.46 10.48 12.47 16.04 21.50
Cardiff dep 5.14 9.55 10.50 12.50 16.25 21.55
London Paddington 7.32 12.02 13.06 15.08 18.24 5.21
Bristol TM 7.18 11.18 12.18 14.18 17.53 23.49
Hereford 6.17 11.06 11.51 13.53 17.51 23.05
Birmingham
Holyhead 10.14 16.15 20.49
Manchester 9.11 13.15 14.15 16.15 19.49

15 Comments

Filed under News & weather, Timetables

15 Responses to Fishguard timetable: the devil’s in the detail

  1. vicky

    prefer to arrive cardiff earlier than 10, and london earlier, as the official consultation offers, by a small margin.
    It is hard to get to meetings and work arriving later than 10 in cardiff.
    so 2 trains before 7am is a good thing, and surely most people want to travel early or late rather than middle of day? or maybe i am wrong.

    • Spad

      Spad agrees that reaching Cardiff and London for morning meetings is a
      major benefit. But the 2 services before 7am are FROM Carmarthen TO Fishguard. Those are positioning journeys, and the question is whether that is the best use of five precious westbound trips.

  2. Margaret I Hawkes

    I for one am delighted to see more trains from Fishguard and those who complain about the proposed new timetable should consider themsleves very lucky that the Assembly and the train company have agreed to provide more transport to a fairly remote area of the country. As far as I am concerned the times are as good as one could resonably expect. I shall be very pleased to use the trains provided.

    • Spad

      We’re all delighted with extra trains! That doesn’t stop us taking up the Welsh Government’s invitation to comment on the proposed timetable. Whether you’re entirely happy with this draft, or can see room for improvement, the important thing is to state your views – and then use the trains.

  3. Rhydgaled

    Would a 10am first arrival in Cardiff be acceptable, or does it really need to be before then? If so, how much before is needed to be useful in getting to said meetings?

    I agree with Spad, but I would put it a different way. I’m happy to be getting 4 extra departures from Fishguard (though would rather they were spaced out better, the first 2 are only an hour apart and there’s a 5 hour gap in the afternoon). The last new departure, I’m not sure whether to count. It’s ok I guess, but perhaps might earn more passengers if it was in that 5 hour gap (of course there would need to be an inbound service to balance it if they did that though). It all depends on whether the means to leave a unit at Fishguard overnight is available.

    I’m also pleased we are getting 3 extra trains to Fishguard, but would rather have the 5 they promised (a train from Carmarthen to Fishguard at 5:50am isn’t a service, I would expect the loadings would reveal that this is an ECS move (Empty Coaching Stock)). The inhabitants of Clarbeston Road are unlikely to make use of their service to Fishguard (7:33) either (anything over an hour is stretching the term ‘connection’ very thin indeed, esspecially as there is no waiting room).

    Connections at Whitland, provided they are not longer than 15 mins (prefrably no more than 10) and link into services that go at least as far as Cardiff, are an acceptable compromise for direct trains to Cardiff, but only if these direct trains are at useful times. The new through trains we’re getting however also go on to Manchester, that means class 175 units (the newest ATW have). The bad news is the 175 fleet is streched to it’s limits and class 150 stock (the woefully inapproriate stock on the current daytime express service to Fishguard) often has to take over 175 workings. A 150 is all well and good for slow stoppers (such as the Swansea to Cardiff ‘Swanline’ service) but having them end up on express services is to be avoided.
    There’s also the Swansea District Line and bus connection issues. These are things I think must be brought up in the consultation. I feel a public meeting, allowing pepole like Spad to explain to the rest of the local public about the district line and dicuss the service, followed by representivies from WAG, ATW, Richards Bros and the council arriving for further discussion would be very useful in this. On the district line point, we don’t have the rolling stock for it at the moment, but perhaps Spad’s suggestion of getting a service for the line’s aniversary is achivable IF we get our point across now. If we sit back and accept the goodies they are giving us now, that’s what we’ll be stuck with, but make enough noise now and we might get an even better deal from December (when there is a timetable change, there are no more timetable changes after that until December 2012 apparently, due to the Olympics, no idea if that’s true).

    My verdicit:
    1. I would prefer a unit to be stabled at Fishguard overnight if possible
    2. I would prefer this unit to be a single car 153 (or a 150, or if there really is no other option one of those awful Pacers), and run a shuttle to Carmarthen (like Spad’s suggestion) or even to Whitland on a roughly every-2-hours basis (leaving a gap for the boat train), provided connections are good, until December and then get this every-two-hours service extended to Cardiff using the District line with a stock upgrade to class 158s (it might be possible to get some ‘new’ trains in service to release us some 158s by December, there’d be more chance if I said May 2012, but the Olympics has apparently canceled the May timetable change).

    • Spad

      Many excellent points as ever, Rhydgaled. I’ll add one more: a
      public meeting to air and share all these issues (including Fishguard & Goodwick Station) seems essential. But unless we push hard and fast, it’s not likely in the time we’ve been given. The delayed launch of the consultation has given us a very tight deadline – June 17th. Once Spring Bank Holiday is out of the way, that’s barely a fortnight to press for a meeting, agree it, organise it, and sort out the feedback. Unless there’s quick consensus locally, it looks very doubtful. What do you say?

  4. Rhydgaled

    Another point, you note that only 2 of the new services to Fishguard serve London, Birmingham (17 respondents to 2004 survey) and Manchester (13). Perhaps you should have also mentioned that only these trains make a connection to Bristol (31 respondents), at least according to the connections you have put in.

    I’ve been looking at the 9:41 arrival in Fishguard and trying to ajust it to make it connect into the first train of the day from London to Bristol. However, even using the district line (and without the extra 10 mins that services to Fishguard normally have from Whitland versus the outward services) I cannot achive this and get to Fishguard by 10:00 (which I think is the time it needs to get there to connect with the Stena Lynx), we need the London train to be about 12 mins earlier, more to allow the unit to depart Fishguard at 09:55.

  5. Rhydgaled

    Are we getting linespeed improvements as well as extra trains?!!

    The 06:53 from Fishguard apparently takes only 23 mins to get to Whitland, whereas the current services do it in 32mins. Another mistake, or can we speed up our other services too?

  6. Moira Lewis

    I am pleased to have trains leaving Goodwick very early in the morning as this would allow me to reach Cardiff in a reasonable time to attend meetings and to do my work as a supporting artist on tv.productions when required.
    I would be able to leave and return on the same day.

    • Spad

      See you on the early train to Cardiff, Moira. It’s one of the best things about the draft timetable.
      Now here’s a question for you: two of the five extra trains promised from Carmarthen to Fishguard leave Carmarthen before 6a.m. One of them takes two hours – with a wait of over an hour changing trains at Clarbeston Road. How many people will welcome that?
      Do you think that one of those services might be better used filling the gap between 11:23 and 17:32 when not one single train is planned to run to Fishguard?

    • Rhydgaled

      I’d be interested to hear what is a reasonable time to reach Cardiff. As Spad says, an early service is one of the key positive aspects of the timetable. However, it does only go as far as Clarbeston Road. The service at first glance seems to assume Fishguard residents commute to work in Swansea (I have no idea whether that is a common occourance or not) as it arrives before 9am. However, if this is what the service is for, 08:49 gives only 11 mins to get to wherever it is you work, so perhaps it isn’t meant for that. If that is a key objective of the service in question, would it be better to run even earlier, and all the way to Carmarthen to connect with the 07:30 (First Great Western service to London)?

      The 09:46 arrival in Cardiff gives you a more generous 14 mins to get to a 10am meeting/job, but might still be cutting it fine. Connecting with the 07:30 would mean you loose custom by being earlier, but perhaps gain some by arriving at Swansea at 08:21 and Cardiff at 09:22.

      Either way, apart from the changing at Clarbeston Road issue, I feel the 1st morning departure from Fishguard could well eventually (as pepole get used to Fishguard having a train service) be well used by Fishguard / Goodwick residents. However, residents of the rest of north Pembrokeshire, particularly those north of Newport, may find getting to Goodwick by public transport at that time in the morning is not an option, because running an extra bus at that time is unlikely to be very cost effective for a few early-bird train travelers. This is why I’m wondering what the latest acceptable first arrival in Cardiff is. 10:02 is the earliest I can come up with that connects from existing buses from Cardigan, is that alright or would an arrival before 10 generate significantly more usage?

      On the subject of buses, the non-clockface nature of the service (and in fact the services passing through Haverfordwest too, even though they superficcally they appear nice and even it only really is for a few hours, then messes up again) is going to give the council and Richards Bros a hell of a job trying to make the 412 (which is much nearer being clockface) connect with everything. (When these extra trains are put on, it will need to connect passengers from north of Fishguard to Goodwick, passengers from Fishguard and north of it to Milford and Johnston and passengers from places between Fishguard and Haverfordwest to Carmarthen, Cardiff, Swansea and England).

  7. phillip nicholas

    From purley personal point of veiw, one train that ran at 0800 from F/G calling at carmarthen swansea (change) cardiff, london (arriving no later than 1300 hrs, with a return dept london 1700, allowing changes and links to arrive back F/G no later than 23.55 hrs.

    • Spad

      The Welsh Government Rail Unit has today (June 2) corrected and updated its proposed timetable. Please go to Through trains to Fishguard for the latest corrected files, and for Fishguard Trains’ exclusive preview of the proposed long-distance timetable for Fishguard.

  8. Swansea Jack

    Your proposed timetable effectively has 6 return trains rather than the five offered by the Welsh Minister in March. The additional costs involved in running a sixth train make it a non-runner. From my studies, the timetable effectively is one train shuttling back and forth, but Arriva trains Wales have linked in to some existing services such as the 09:00 Carmarthen to Swansea and 15:14 (15:30) Cardiff to Swansea to give us some very welcome through services which I’m sure most potential passengers will value.

    With only the one train available (look at the DMU shortage nationally – we’re lucky to get even one!) it would prove impossible to meet the day trip market with a 4:30 to 5pm train from Swansea while having anything East from Fishguard between 2pm (too close to the existing boat train) or 6:30pm when the proposed train runs. From what I can see a good attempt has been made to cover most potential journeys, although it is a shame that there are no London connections after the 13:30 train. That issue is really down to FGW’s last London train leaving before 8:30pm (the last Bristol to London leaves at 10:35pm!) – I think pressure should be exerted on DfT to ensure there is a later South Wales to London train in the new franchise, which the 18:49 from Fishguard could link into.

    Your comments about the 2 morning trains fail to highlight that the one train travels Carmarthen to Fishguard to Clarbeston Road (for early trips to Swansea / Cardiff etc) then returns to Fishguard to give the excellent 08:06 departure which is great for Carmarthen commuters etc and allows bus connections from the wider area.

    I think the consultation should also be used to pressurise for the reopening of Goodwick station, which I believe to be critically important to the long term success of the service. A new platform with bus connections and a park and ride facility using the old goods yard would be really useful – it is this issue that I will be pushing for in my reply – I hope others will do the same.

    I think the potential travel opportunities available to those of us in living in North Pembrokeshire are great, especially as they will allow trips to Swansea to see the Swans in the Premier League next season!!

    Regards

    Swansea Jack

    • Spad

      Surely everyone in Fishguard and Goodwick wants Goodwick station reopened ASAP. Welsh Government has made clear that the consultation is limited to the timetable only. But however it’s timetabled, the new service will only succeed if it is as user-friendly as possible. That means Goodwick station must reopen.
      There’s an intriguing connection between that, and the reason why they’re planning two early morning trains
      into Fishguard that will run empty, in order to serve the essential early trains out of Fishguard. That connection is Stena, and Fishguard Trains will shortly explore the Stena Question.

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