What are service numbers for?

Blured photo of bus on T5 service
Blurred Direction: TrawsCymru T5 service
Earlier this month, I criticised the TrawsCymru T5 for having a blanket service number covering at least six different routes. As I alluded to at the time, it isn’t just the T5 that makes the number on the front of the bus (often displayed on the side and rear too) seem pointless.

The TrawsCymru network is a serial offender, despite the branding on buses and the route map on the website suggesting all the services are simple one-route affairs. Of the six services, only the T9 is as straightforward as the marketing suggests (and even then it is misleading, because the T9 has a circular route through Cardiff so you can’t realistically use it from Cardiff Central to Cardiff Bay). As for the others:

  • The T1 is five routes, with the main service alternating between Pencarreg and Llanwnnen and a few of each of these omit the detour via Pencader. The fifth route has just one working per day, according to the timetable it takes the old slower route from via Cribyn (and misses out the Morrisons store in Aberystwyth)
  • The T2 has a slower journey via Groeslon and Garndolbenmaen, and Comins Coch is served or omitted seemingly at random
  • The T3 seems to be about three routes, with several villages (Cynwyd, Llandrillo, Llandderfel and Llanuwchllyn) omitted on selected workings
  • The T4 timetable shows three routes, since one trip goes via Bronllys, Talgarth and Three Cocks and some via Boughrood
  • The T5 is six routes, at least, as detailed previously

Inaccurate route banners for T1 and T5 at Aberystwyth bus station
Lies: the TrawsCymru T1 and T5 shown as single routes on bus stop branding.
Remember, I’m not suggesting that a wide range of routes is necessarily a bad thing, just the practice of giving multiple routes the same service number. In the case of the above, one route should be picked for the TrawsCymru designation to avoid cluttering the TrawsCymru numbering convention. The others should continue as ordinary local bus routes.

I don’t know the answer to the question posed by the title of this post, but I would have thought the purpose of a route number is to identify the route a bus will take to reach the final destination displayed on the front of the bus (often on the side too). A blanket service number as used by the above TrawsCymru services doesn’t do that. Examples of the confusion the blanket numbers can cause were given in the earlier post, and the practice isn’t limited to TrawsCymru.

Enviro 200 bus on 554 service in Cardigan
Messy in more ways than one: a rather mucky bus on the multi-route 554 service
A long-running First Cymru service in south Pembrokeshire is the 349 between Haverfordwest and Tenby via Neyland, Pembroke Dock, Pembroke, Manorbier, and Penally. Apart from one early-morning service omitting Neyland and Pembroke Dock (probably just a positioning move) it was a single route. However, on the 3rd January (2016) First changed all that. They cancelled another of their routes (the 355) and introduced a new route, Monkton to Haverfordwest via Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. Thus, it provides a faster service between Pembroke and Haverfordwest, by avoiding Neyland. The problem is that this new route has been given the same service number as the Tenby service (ie. 349).

I believe the 349 (and the now-cancelled 355) are commercial ventures on the part of First, and TrawsCymru services are of course specified by the Welsh Government, at least in part. Local-authority specified services aren’t immune either though, heading north out of Cardigan there is another mess.

Cardigan Finch Square with 4 buses present
Bus route maze: a range of services preparing to leave Cardigan, including the inconsistently routed 552 service.
As I may have mentioned last time, the residual ‘X50’ services between Aberaeron and Cardigan, despite making only three trips, manages to cover all three main routes (direct, via New Quay, and via New Quay and Aberporth). There’s also the 554 (to Beulah, usually) and 552 (coastal routes to New Quay) services.

The 552 varies its route depending on what day of the week it is. It used to have two trips as far as Llangrannog on Tuesdays & Fridays, one via Aberporth and the other via Bleanporth and Brynhoffnant. It ran through to New Quay just once a week, on Wednesdays. Some of the five workings each week served Llangoedmor, others didn’t etc. Now, the service is known as the Cardi Bach* and the short workings to Llangrannog (still via Brynhoffnant and Blaenporth vice Aberporth on one of the two trips) are Thursdays only.

Another 4 buses at Cardigan Finch Square
Via where, exactly? The 412 might be displaying ‘via Fishguard’ but the 412 always did that, was this particular working going via Trecwn? We can’t tell. Likewise the 554, Beulah via Aberporth yes, but via Gwbert too? Use meaningful route numbers, please.
The rest of the week** the service basically follows the old service 600 Cardi Bach timetable, travelling via Gwbert and Mwnt (the old 552 travelled via Penparc, as does the current Thursday service) and several beaches not otherwise served. Like the 552, the 554 also apparently cannot make up its mind whether to serve Penparc or Gwbert. The full length workings (Cardigan – Beulah) on the 554 go via Tresaith (another place that is served by some 552s but not all), but some short workings don’t and one of these is done in a circular manner, taking in Bleanporth. This part of Ceredigion’s bus network is such a mess that I’ve probably failed to explain it cleanly. Hopefully my suggestion of how to tidy it up (coming in a future post), will be clearer.

* the walker’s bus for the southern part of the Ceredigion coast path, which previously had the service number 600
** all six days in summer, Friday and Saturday only in winter

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