08/04/2014

Peak hourly rail service announced for the Cambrian Line

Rail campaigners throughout Central Wales are celebrating after being told the campaign for an hourly train service has succeeded in bringing about substantial improvements on the line. 

A major campaign started in October of distributing and collecting survey forms brought 6,700 responses throughout the region - far more than was envisaged - and has convinced the Transport Minister to provide the funding needed. 

Students, like some of those pictured here with Elin Jones AM and myself after hearing about the announcement, are key users of the service to Aberystwyth.

The Welsh Government's press release reads as follows:

"New peak hourly trains between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury will be among extra services to be funded by the Welsh Government on the Cambrian and Heart of Wales rail lines, Transport Minister Edwina Hart is announcing today (Tuesday, 8 April).

"Four additional return services will operate between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury, Mondays - Saturdays, with hourly services for peak morning and afternoon times. There will also be two new return Sunday services, and an improvement to evening services on the Cambrian Coast between Barmouth and Pwllheli.

"On the Heart of Wales line, there will be extra  journeys between Llandovery and Gowerton/Swansea and between Llandrindod and Shrewsbury/Crewe offering good morning commuting opportunities on Mondays – Fridays. Other return services will become more conveniently timed and the Heart of Wales Line Forum gets funding to explore the possibility of further improvements to the line.

"The new services will create 20 new train crew and depot jobs. The changes, which will be on an initial three-year trial basis, will come into place from May 2015.

"The additional services on both railways are designated for a three year trial under Section 36 of the Railways Act 2005 “experimental services” designation. The services will be reviewed after the first year and annually.

Cambrian Railway
"The trial will provide 4 additional return services, in each direction, between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury Mondays - Saturdays, including hourly peak services for morning and afternoon, plus two new return Sunday services, and an improvement to evening services on the Cambrian Coast between Barmouth and Pwllheli.

Heart of Wales Line
"The trial will provide additional morning journeys Mondays - Fridays between Carmarthen and Llandovery, returning to Swansea for an arrival at 8.16, and from Shrewsbury to Llandrindod returning to Shrewsbury with a 7.58 arrival and continuing to Crewe arriving at 8.50. These services are additional to the current four return journeys along the line and provide improved commuting opportunities, and later services will become more conveniently timed with some journeys being extended to start from/terminate at Crewe.
The lead time for the recruitment and training of staff means that the additional services will commence at the earliest possible timetable change date in May 2015. "

The announcement doesn't give the full hourly service campaigned for but does provide substantial improvements at peak times and will give a solid base from which to campaign for further improvements when the franchise on the line is renewed 2018.

2 comments:

  1. I can't believe that this will lead to an increase in riders but instead simply spread the same people over more trains. While this is convenient, will this be satisfactory to the Welsh government to justify the extra costs? Do you know of any information about who is expected to fill these extra trains?

    Also, my reading of the regulations is that the experimental service can be stopped at any point in time (given 6 weeks notice). You make it sound as if it is guaranteed until 2018. Is that really the case? Thanks.

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  2. The evidence for the increased service comes from the 6,700 survey responses in which people said what kind of a service they would like and how they would use a better one. I haven't got access to these responses but they were good enough for the Welsh Government to decide to allocate finding when its generally much more focused on the South Wales and North Wales corridors.

    Obviously it's impossible for anyone, even the people themselves, to predict with precise accuracy how travellers will respond to the new services in practice, but it stands to reason that people are more likely to use any given mode of transport if it can get them there closer to the time they want. As a train user myself, I regularly make choices about which mode to use based on the times of the services. Sometimes the train times just don't fit at the moment so I have to use a bus or car. Timings are, of course, a particular issue for commuters and these are a key group that I hope the new service will cater for.

    Whilst theoretically it might be possible for the Welsh Government to stop the new service at short notice, it's hard to believe they would invest the money and the time in training staff unless they were seriously committed. Three years from 2015 -2018 isn't all that long.

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