An Imposible Connection

It is not possible for the bus services between Aberystwyth and Aberaeron (the 40 and X50 services, at the time of writing) to connect with the trains at Aberystwyth. At least, not if you want to a regular interval timetable that is useful to other potential passengers.

Class 158 train leaving Aberystwyth station
Half past an odd hour: a train departs Aberystwyth
Trains normally arrive in Aberystwyth at 20 minutes past the odd hours and depart 10 minutes later. If we assume that Aberystwyth station has a waiting room (it doesn’t, not yet anyway) then 15-20 minutes seems to be a reasonable time to allow for connections. If we use 15 minutes, the bus would need to arrive at quarter past (xx:15) and depart at xx:35. For 20-minute connections, the bus would arrive at xx:10 and depart at xx:40. With an every-half-hour service between Aberaeron and Aberystwyth, this means departures from Aberystwyth would be xx:05 and xx:35 or xx:10 and xx:40. The latter is actually the case at present.

X50 bus preparing to depart Aberystwyth
Run faster to catch: services from Aberystwyth to Cardigan now depart at 10 past the hour (when this photo was taken (Dec 2013) it was scheduled to depart at 18:15)
The problem is that these times are not great for passengers wanting the X50 service (the one which departs at xx:10). Most university lectures finish on the hour, and getting down the hill to the station in 10 minutes is a tall order. It can be done, but you have to be fit and hope your lecture does not over-run. If the rail connecting buses were at xx:35, the result would be an even more useless timing of xx:05 for the other service. I imagine, many workers in the town also finish on the hour.

There’s another problem, too. Even supposing you don’t care about the university, the 40 route (to Carmarthen) takes 2hrs 15mins. Out and back would therefore take the bus 4hrs 30mins, so if you want to run an hourly service with five buses you only have half an hour to play with between trips. Arriving at Aberystwyth at xx:10 and departing at xx:40 would use all of that half hour, meaning the bus would have no waiting time at the Carmarthen end. This wouldn’t be good for delay recovery on the buses.

And retiming the trains probably isn’t possible, as they run through to Birmingham and have to slot in on the busy line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Plus, there’s little reason other than bus connection to want to retime the trains at Aberystwyth.

Countdown To When?

I was planning to launch a countdown timer to mark six months remaining on the Fishguard 3-year trial rail service. Unfortunately, my attempts to extract the date of the final day from Arriva Trains Wales have proved unsuccessful. Therefore, I’ve taken a guess, and the countdown is currently set to mark 09:56 on the 6th September (the launch event for the trial service was centered arround the first 09:56 departure). If and when I find out the real date, I will endevour to update the countdown.

EDIT May 23rd: Timer is now counting down to 21:00 on the 6th September, the departure time from Fishguard of what, I believe, will be the last train under the current trial arrangment. There’s been no official confirmation of the date but that appears to be the only timetable change date in September.

An Unviable Branch?

It was a line with two trains a day… Now (until the trial ends, probably in September) it has seven, but is that enough to make the Fishguard branch viable?

Fishguard & Goodwick train
Enough trains? Class 153 and class 150 at Fishguard & Goodwick station

The January 2014 issue of the magazine Modern Railways suggests that, if this was mainland Europe, even the current level of services would not be sufficent to safeguard the line’s future. The French equivalent of Network Rail apparently requires a minimum of nine trains a day to justify the long-term future of a route (ie. heavy repair work). In Germany that minimum level is a two-hourly service (one train every two hours) for 16 hours a day.

Back to Wales, and both the Fishguard branch and the Heart Of Wales Line fall short of the frequencies required across the English channel. Let’s hope the conclusion of the Fishguard trial is that a greater, rather than lesser, frequency is warranted.