Don’t Ruin The Flag, And The Climate

Flag of Scotland flying above Edinburgh
The Saltire In The Sky
Not long now… In just 17 days time, on the 18th of September (2014), Scotland will vote on whether to become an independent country. Although most of the predictions say that Scotland will remain part of the union, I am slightly concerned that the outcome of the referendum could be a surprising ‘Yes to independence’. While I am in favour of devolution, to the maximum extent possible, both at home in Wales and in Scotland, I do not want to see the United Kingdom broken up.

To start with my most trivial concern, removing the Scottish Saltire (Saint Andrew’s white cross on blue) from the Union Flag would ruin the appearance of the flag. Of course it is not clear whether Scottish independence would in fact result in a change to the flag, but I do think it would be rather dull without the blue background.

Oil/Gas rig in the north of Scotland
Fossil fuel extraction in the far north
There are far greater concerns however. The north sea oil and gas reserves have featured quite prominently in the debate over Scotland’s future; economics however is not one of my strong suits. I cannot understand why the economy is regarded as such an important election issue and what effects it, but as far as the Scottish independence referendum is concerned the gist seems to be if Scotland can extract enough oil and gas it will have a strong economy. As George Monbiot once said: there are enough fossil fuels left to fry us all. If Scotland becomes independent, it may well be founded on the basis of the fundamentally unsustainable continued burning of fossil fuels.

We are stronger together, in the face of threats to the natural world and national security alike; perhaps even the economy although, as I’ve already suggested, I really don’t have a clue about that. Thus, I say, the United Kingdom needs to stand united, stand tall and face it all together. They say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, I hope this is true and that we can work together to counter all the threats the world throws at us. Again, as Monboit said we need to leave the fossil fuels in the ground, an independent Scotland reliant on extracting fossil fuels for its prosperity is all we need.

ScotRail trains outside Edinburgh
Departing The Kingdom? Well, this is a transport-centered blog, had to stick a train photo in somewhere

I don’t often agree with members of the Conservative party, but for once the prime minister has said something I agree with wholeheartedly: Scotland, “we want you to stay”.

Sunday Returns

Great news. You can catch a bus in Ceredigion today!

So what? you might think. Today however is August 3rd 2014, a Sunday. Since December last year, Ceredigion has (I believe) been completely devoid of bus services on Sundays. If you wanted to cross the county by public transport, your only options were the 701 coach (Aberystwyth to Cardiff) or the county’s rail link (Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury – Birmingham).

TrawsCymru T1 Enviro 200 bus in Aberystwyth
Arriving in Aberystwyth – T1 from Carmarthen
The new TrawsCymru T1 timetable, starting today, however includes Sunday journeys. So, Sunday buses have made a (very limited) come back. The Sunday timetable, just four trips each way, is rather scant compared to the hourly service that will operate the rest of the week, but it’s a start.

Less positive is the T1’s page on the TrawsCymru website. This claims that:

The TrawsCymru T1 service is your direct link between Aberystwyth – Lampeter – Carmarthen offering high quality, environmentally friendly travel and value for money fares.

It is the “direct link” statement that I call into question. The T1 replaces the 40/40c and, as such, follows the same indirect route. Actually, to be honest it isn’t quite the same route. The T1 is actually two routes, largely the same but with alternate trips serving some of the villages which were not served by the 40/40c. Anyway, Aberaeron and Pencader are still served, meaning it isn’t a direct route and still takes well over 2hrs end-to-end. The page also claims Better connections with rail services at Carmarthen and Aberystwyth Rail Stations. I don’t know about Carmarthen, but the times at Aberystwyth are the same as the 40 service it replaces and, as I’ve said before, it isn’t really possible to make it connect with trains at Aberystwyth anyway.

Invitations To Tender (ITT) have been issued for two further new TrawsCymru routes, the T2 (Aberystwyth-Bangor) and T3 (Wrexham-Barmouth) and these also include a Sunday service. Perhaps then, things are looking up for a 7-day bus network, but apart from that the TrawsCymru brand is looking a bit weak.

EDIT 11th August 2014: added photograph

Scar On Sustainability

Bridge over the new A477
Road to ruin
In terms of sustatinable integrated transport, the A477 St Clears to Red Roses Road ‘Improvement’ is anything but. I was aware of plans for the ‘A477 St. Clears to Red Roses’ road project, but not that work had started. I was therefore rather supprised a while ago when I learnt that the new road had been openned.

OS map of St Clears to Red RosesThe result of the project was the divertion of a section of the A477 (St Clears to Pembroke Dock) onto a new route of over 4 miles between Llanddowror, near St. Clears, and Red Roses, bypassing both settlements. While motorists probably welcome road bypasses, they are bad news for public transport. To explain why, let me return breifly to the topic of TrawsCymru. The review published relatively recently recomended keeping the journey time down by avoiding detours to serve villages along the route. Local services, such as Cardigan to Aberystwyth via Aberporth and New Quay, are important but are much too slow to attract anyone who has a choice to use the service for an end-to-end journey. However, if the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen service was to ommit Lampeter there would be a significant loss of revenue from passengers making shorter journeys.

A477 new road photo by St Clears Red Roses on Flickr
Speed For Cars
The ideal bus route therefore is one which follows the same road as the motorist, without any detours, but still passes through plenty of settlements that help fill up the bus with those doing shorter trips. Bypasses leave the bus providers with an impossible choice, use the bypass and lose the passengers from the town/village bypassed or divert through the settlement and lose the through traffic due to the extended journey time compared to the car. Modal shift in the wrong direction. In my interest of TrawsCymru and my knowledge that the Pembroke Dock rail branch is quite twisty, I have pondered a Pembroke – Carmarthen – Llandeilo – Llandovery TrawsCymru route. To my horror I discovered that, with the possible exception of Milton and Broadmoor, the bus wouldn’t have anywhere to stop and pick anyone up between Pembroke and Carmarthen (unless it made detours) now that the new St Clears – Red Roses section has been built since nearly everywhere has been bypassed.

Construction of new A477 road
Ribbon Of Destruction
So, not only has Pembrokeshire’s countryside been blighted by yet another ribbon of tarmac but the transport planners have put another nail in the coffin of sustainable transport. Will they ever learn? Apparently not, now they want to build a bypass for a bypass in the form of the M4 motorway round Newport (the big one in south-east Wales that is). We can only hope that does not go ahead.

The images used in this post are a little different from my normal practice. You can still click them to enlarge, but they are not mine. The photographs are taken from the official ‘St Clears Red Roses’, on Flickr and the map is from the Ordinance Survey, using their online OpenSpace API.

Three More Months

There are now just three months left to run on the three year trial service of five extra trains each way on the Fishguard Harbour branch line. The Welsh Government have launched a community survey as part of their review of the service. I have produced a new video (part of my ‘Trains For Fishguard’ series) to mark the occasion and publicise the survey.

Class 150 train at Fishguard & Goodwick station
Don’t Pull The Plug: train at Fishguard & Goodwick

The review, and the survey, will shape the future service on the line. I hope the result will be an improved service not a reduction. has more information, and a link to the survey.

Muddling Map

Bwcabus area map April 2014
Confusion Contribution: The new Bwcabus area map.
The new Bwcabus area map creates a double whammy of confusion. Bwcabus is, of course, primarily a demand-responsive service, you have to telephone in advance in order to book your Bwcabus journey within the designated area. As the map shows there are also ordinary bus services operating within the area and others which skirt the edges. Bwcabus will connect with these fixed bus routes for passengers wishing to travel beyond the area.

I like maps, but this new Bwcabus one is, in some respects, inaccurate and misleading. The first problem is that there is no distinction between the mainline bus routes which operate six days a week, with reasonable frequencies, and services that run only two days a week. The second is that the 551 service (which runs once a day during college terms only) is absent entirely. My inspiration for this post however is the third problem.

The third problem is that it reinforces the confusing situation which was created by merging the X50, 550 and 50 services into one. It used to be that the X50 and 550 both ran between Cardigan and Aberystwyth, via different routes (the X50 direct along the main road, the 550 via New Quay and Aberporth). The 50, introduced by Arriva, operated from Aberystwyth to Synod Inn via New Quay. Now however all three routes are titled X50, with all but one service in each direction travelling via New Quay, around half of which also serve Aberporth. I have already seen passengers for Aberporth on the X50 realise, as we sped past the junction for Aberporth, that they were on the wrong bus. I don’t know whether they walked to Aberporth (well over a mile) or waited an hour for a bus that did actually go via Aberporth).

Wright Pulsar bus in Aberystwyth on X50 service to Cardigan
Does this go via Aberporth? – X50 service to Cardigan (Welsh:Aberteifi) in Aberystwyth
And now this new Bwcabus map shows the X50 as a single line, with both Aberporth and New Quay shown as part of the route. Blaenannerch and Blaenporth (which are served by the X50 when it misses out Aberporth) do not appear on the map at all. There is also nothing to warn passengers for Aberporth that not all X50 services pass through Aberporth and also no indication that there is still one service which doesn’t go via New Quay. This new ‘X50’ route needs to be broken up into separate services again, X50 for the direct route between Cardigan and Aberystwyth, 50 for Cardigan-Aberystwyth via New Quay and 550 for Cardigan-Aberaeron/Aberystwyth via Aberporth and New Quay.

For now, if you want a bus to Aberporth, or New Quay, check the timetable. The maps and service numbers will mislead you.

The Core Conundrum

TrawsCambria has a hole at it’s core. A key function of the network the Welsh Assembly Government created around 2004/5 was bridging the gaps in Wales’ rail network. Four of the network’s six routes, at least in part, mirrored long-lost rail links:

  • X32 Bangor – Caernarfon – Porthmadog – Dolgellau – Aberystwyth
  • X94 Wrexham – Llangollen – Corwen – Bala – Barmouth
  • X40 Aberystwyth – Aberaeron – Lampeter – Pencader – Carmarthen
  • 704 Newtown – Builth Wells – Brecon – Merthyr Tydfil

Of these missing rail links (listed in bold above), the one that has attracted the most calls for re-opening is probably Carmarthen – Aberystwyth. Thus, the X40 was a core route of TrawsCambria and this is evidenced by the fact it carried more passengers than any of the other TrawsCambria routes. However, the X40 is no more, having fallen victim to Arriva’s CymruExpress operation, which itself is now gone. The TrawsCymru TC1 service, intended to replace and enhance the X40, has not yet materialised, leaving a hole at the core of TrawsCambria/TrawsCymru.

40 service bus in Aberystwyth
Arriving From Carmarthen: a Lewis’ Coaches 40 service approaches Aberystwyth
Instead of the X40/TC1 we have two normal services, the 40/40c. This is actually one through service, with a change of service number at Lampeter. The 40/40c service largely follows the intended route of the TC1 but with standard buses rather than the high-specification TrawsCymru ones. The obvious solution is to steal back the six new buses ordered for the TC1, but the current route takes 2hrs 15mins to get between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen. That is rather slow, compared to the car, exceeding the recent recommendation (in the Winckler review) that TrawsCymru services should not be more than 50% slower. But what can be done about it? Not a lot, it seems; the 40/40c is already faster than the X40, after most of the detours were removed under Arriva’s CymruExpress.

Bus on service 40 at Aberaeron Alban Square
Eclipsed by the car: First Cymru Wright Eclipse on the 40 service
The only detour remaining is that to Pencader, but removing that would mean finding a replacement bus service for Pencader. This could easily end up doubling the overall running costs and might only have a small impact on the overall journey time. With no other detours, the only thing left to do would be change the entire shape of the service to make it more direct. That would mean missing out Aberaeron or Lampeter, possibly both. The reduced revenue that would result would almost certainly make such a proposal unworkable.

Is it time for plans to be drawn up for a new express rail link between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth? That would allow the 40/40c to remain as local bus services, eg. making detours to Pencader? Meanwhile, the Welsh Government look like they are planning to upgrade the 40/40c to a TrawsCymru route in June or July, ignoring the Winckler review advice that TrawsCymru services should avoid detours.

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.

Good thinking but…

Better late than never… The Welsh Governent has finally published the TrawsCymru review they commissioned Dr Victoria Winckler of the Bevan Foundation think tank to produce.

TrawsCymru Logo
TrawsCymru logo (from the TrawsCymru website)

The report contains some good recomendations, for example pointing out the need for improved facilities at bus stations. It also states that ideally the journey time for TrawsCymru services should be no more than 33% slower than by car, and never more than 50% slower. That ties in with what I have been saying about the Aberystwyth – Cardigan route (X50 versus 550). The X50 is arround about the 33% mark, the 550 takes 1h 54mins. It wasn’t included in the review, but that’s 84% slower than the car journey time for Cardigan – Aberystwyth given in the review report (via New Quay but not Aberporth would be 61% slower than the car).

The review also made a good attempt to define the purpose of the network:

“It should provide medium- to long-distance bus services (of more than 25 miles) between towns and substantial communities”

And now for the BUT
When it came to the details, Dr Winckler appears to have forgotten her general recomendations. Included is support for the T9 (Cardiff Airport Express) service and the T(C)5 (the proposed 412 + X50 combination service). In my view the T9 is out because, at arround 10 miles, it is hardly long-distance. Also, to be pedantic Cardiff Airport is not a community.

412 service in Fishguard - Optare Excel
Smart But Slow: The 412 service at Fishguard
The problem with the TC5 is time. Like the 550, this route was not featured in the journey time comparison table published in the review. I’ve estimated the car journey time from Cardigan to Haverfordwest at arround 40 minutes. The 412 bus service, which would be part of the TC5, goes via Fishguard. Therefore, it does Cardigan – Haverfordwest in 1hr 27mins or 1hr 19mins, depending on whether the trip you happen to be on makes the additional detour to Trecwn. If you thought the 550 was bad at 84% slower than the car, the 412 will give you nightmares. On the faster trips, it is 98% slower than the car. The even slower journeys (via Trecwn) take 118% longer than the car.

EDIT: updated URL to Winckler to point to a local mirror, since the Welsh Government have moved or removed the report.

Roads To Oblivion

Two items on the BBC news last night (4th Feb 2014) about roads.

The first, on the national news, was talking about damage the weather is causing to roads and shortage of funds to repair them. The report even went as far as saying councils may end up having to close rural roads due to having no money to repair them.

After that, the local news (Wales Today) was reporting an accident on the M4 near Brynglas tunnels. Statements followed from users of the M4 calling for a relief road to be built urgently. The Welsh Government’s recently proposed second motorway round Newport was mentioned, with a price tag of around £1bn. In my opinion, that would be yet another inexcusable misuse of public money, encouraging use of modes of transport (car and lorry) which we are supposed to be moving away from in attempts to put a stop to climate change.

Meanwhile, one of the Welsh Government’s pet transport schemes, adding a fourth lane to parts of the heads of the valleys A-road to make it completely dual-carriageway (at a cost of at least £600m), is still going on. Elsewhere, there are plans to accelerate A-roads in Pembrokeshire, including building miles of brand new road from St. Clears to Red Roses on the route to Pembroke Dock. Paul Davies, AM for north Pembrokeshire, is even calling for converting the A40 from St. Clears to Haverfordwest to dual carriageway. Such schemes are just going to magnify the time advantage road has over rail in south-west Wales (more on that in a future post), encouraging more car use and less train travel.

Returning to that first news item, shortage of money is threatening closure of existing roads which the councils cannot afford to repair. If we don’t have enough money to maintain the existing road network, why are our elected leaders so keen on throwing money at new roads to encourage, and provide for, increased car use? Scrap the second M4 proposal, axe the heads of the valleys dualing project, forget the proposed new St. Clears – Red Roses route and don’t let Mr Davies get his A40 dualing proposal off the ground. Then, divert all that money (or some of it, with the rest used for public transport or moved away from transport altogether) to maintaining our existing road network.

Going HighSpeed

Apologies for the lull in posting, I have been struggling with exam revision. With the exams finally out of the way, I’ve got a backlog of letter writing to do and Modern Railways magazines to read. This coming semester I also have my major project to do, so things might still be a little slow on the posting front. Anyway, excuses out of the way, to business.

High Speed 2. An example (and not the only one) of much-needed investment in rail coming from the UK government being rather poorly executed.

I have created a page detailing my proposals for part of the Birmingham – Manchester leg.I hope to update this with proposals further south in due course.


Welcome to 2014. I have just updated my post, ‘End Of An Era’ to include photographs. The delay is due to the poor quality of the photographs, given they were taken at night. I have attempted to improve things with Photoshop.

At the momement I am using my Flickr account to host the images, displaying just thumbnail previews on the blog. Clicking an image should take you to the same image on my Flickr, allowing you to see larger sizes of the image.

The new year has begun. Let’s hope it turns out to be a happy one.

Aberporth All Over Again?

Sunrise in Ceredigion, seen from a bus
Sunrise or sunset?

Arriva wrecked TrawsCambria and blocked TrawsCymru. Will their withdrawal mean a brighter future for Wales’ long-distance bus network?

The council’s press release suggests great news:

I am delighted that we can announce replacement services on the 40, 40C and 50 routes. Whilst the 40/40C service between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen will be very similar to the current service, I am particularly pleased to announce that the 50 route between Aberystwyth and Cardigan will now be a greatly enhanced through-service that will avoid the need to change in Synod Inn. We have also negotiated through-ticketing between the different companies operating the 40, 40C and 50 services.

And that indeed is good news, although changes at Synod Inn haven’t been necessary since Richards Bros extended the 550 from Synod Inn to Aberaeron, at the cost of making Cardigan – New Quay journeys even more impossible.  However, I fear there is a devil in the details. This devil will hopefully be revealed by an explanation of the title of this article.

Going back to the 2007/2008 academic year when I started using buses, the TrawsCambria service south of Aberystwyth consisted of:

  • X40 to Carmarthen (essentially hourly, with occasional extension to Swansea/Cardiff), operated by Arriva Aberystwyth and First Carmarthen
  • X50 to Cardigan (direct), 3 or 4 services each way, plus a few more between Aberaeron and Cardigan ‘connecting’ with the X40, operated by Richards Bros
  • 550 to Cardigan via New Quay and Aberporth, hourly as far as Synod Inn extending every two hours to Cardigan. Operated by Arriva Aberystwyth except a few journeys (principally the last two evening services) worked by Richards Bros. The full trip would take about half an hour longer than the X50 thanks to the diversions round New Quay and Aberporth.

I’ve always been of the opinion that it was a mistake to include the 550, at least the section south of New Quay, in the TrawsCambria network. It was an important local service, but for TrawsCambria the indirect route to Cardigan has to make the service unattractive for long-distance journeys. I spoke to Proffessor Stuart Cole at the TrawsCambria network consultation, objecting to the idea of the network being renamed TrawsCymru. His reply was that the TrawsCambria brand had some baggage. I can only assume he was referring to the 550 and the lack of toilet facilities for the long-distance Aberystwyth – Swansea/Cardiff runs.

As far as long-distance travel is concerned, I believe the X50 should have run through to Aberystwyth more frequently, roughly every two hours throughout the day, and the 550 should have been just another local service.

Now though, it seems it is Aberporth All Over Again, with the direct X50 service being cut to one service each way (southbound in the morning, returning in the afternoon). This allows Arriva’s aborted 50 service to be replaced by an hourly service between Aberystwyth and Cardigan via New Quay (and Aberporth on alternate journeys). Weirdly, in a move that will probably confuse some who won’t know which services go via Aberporth and which is the one that still avoids New Quay, all services will now be given the X50 number.

I hope this is left as a local service and doesn’t become TrawsCymru, because that would be adding the baggage of slow, indirect, journeys to the brand again. Another threat to the TrawsCymru brand is the proposed extension south from Cardigan to Haverfordwest. Again this great news on the face of it, since connections to/from Haverfordwest in Cardigan have always been largely non-existent. However, another Aberporth-like-devil lurks in the details of this proposal. The current service between Cardigan and Haverfordwest, the 412, takes a rather indirect route itself, going via Fishguard, Trecwn (on some trips) and Mathry Road. Yet it doesn’t serve either of Fishguard’s rail stations (actually in Goodwick, not far from Fishguard).

A much better prospect for TrawsCymru, in my view, would be to bring back the direct X50 service and extend it to Fishguard Harbour station for rail connections.

To end on a positive though, as a local service things are much improved today compared to last week with Arriva’s services operating, since you can now go from Cardigan to New Quay by public transport, and you don’t even have to change bus.

End Of An Era

December 21st (2013) was the end of an era for bus services in Ceredigion. The following is my travel report on the day.

Soon after 6pm I arrived at Aberystwyth station to catch the final 18:15 Aberystwyth to Cardigan X50 service.

Optare Tempo YJ55BKE in Aberystwyth
Departure Time, YJ55BKE stands ready at Aberystwyth with the final 18:15 X50 service to Cardigan.

I thought it rather fitting that the vehicle used was YJ55BKE, one of the two Tempos ordered and route-branded for the X50 service. I think this is only the second time I have seen an X50 vehicle on this service (the timetable means the two buses were not sufficent to cover both this working and the two evening full-length 550 runs, so other vehicles have had to substitute). I took this service as far as Aberaeron, passing the Arriva Pulsars on the final northbound 50 service and the penultimate northbound 40 service.

At Aberaeron I alighted to await the final CymruExpress 40 service to Aberystwyth.

Aberaeron Christmas X50
Merry Christmas? The final evening X50 service to Cardigan, with Aberaeron’s christmas lights in the background.

YJ55BKN, once an Arriva-liveried Tempo on the TrawsCambria 550 and X40 but now part of Richards Bro’s fleet, passed on the 17:36 Cardigan to Aberystwyth 550 service (which due to regulations on service length now changes to X50 at Aberaeron). Perhaps this distracted me enough to miss Arriva’s final CymruExpress 50 service, the 18:15 from Aberystwyth. Either way, I did not see that service so I wonder if Arriva failed to run the final 50 service. While I was waiting, one of the Arriva Pulsars came up from the New Quay direction running Out Of Service. Since it wasn’t stopping I only had time to catch part of the number plate.

Final Arriva 40 bus, Aberaeron
The last Arriva 40 arrives at Aberaeron

I spent some of the rather long wait for the 40 taking photographs of the Christmas lights on Alban Square. The final 40 service finally arrived, rather ungloriously formed of V580ECC (complete with the old-fashioned bus seats which I believe are now largely confined to Northern Rail’s Pacer fleet). As I boarded, the driver realised I was out to ride the last 40 service, my camera was probably a dead give away. Then he asked, “it’s a shame isn’t it?” I think my reply was “In a way, yes.”

Onboard the last 40 service
Retro Seats: onboard the last 40 service

What I meant was, it’s a shame the bus depot in Aberystwyth is closing, and it’s a shame some of the staff Arriva have made redundant may be unable to find alternative employment. However, I’m not sorry at all that Arriva have left the area, their policies have been obstructive in the aims of providing a good overall public transport service and at times they have displayed incompetence. I stress that I attribute these problems to the distant management, the local staff are probably completely blameless and had they been employed by the local independent operators instead of Arriva I’m sure we wouldn’t have had these problems.

End of the line
End of the line: the last Arriva 40 at Aberystwyth

At Aberystwyth, after taking some photos of the last 40 at the station, I quickly dashed over to the Arriva depot to see if I could photograph the fleet. It was however too dark and the photographs didn’t come out well enough. Then it was time for a lift home by car, passing ex-Arriva (now Richards Bros) Optare Tempo YJ06YRZ (heading into Aberystwyth on the final 550 service) as we left the town.

Off into the night
Off into the night: YJ55BKE departs Aberaeron for Cardigan on the last direct evening service

EDIT 1st Jan 2014: added photographs from the day