It may surprise you to learn that the Tenby and Pembroke Dock railway line is the busiest railway line in Pembrokeshire. Official figures published by the Office for Rail and Road show that it carries significantly more passengers than the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven line yet has a much inferior service. In 2018 Transport for Wales took over the provision of rail services in Wales and the borders. This promised to be a new dawn for welsh rail services with massive investment promised.
To date nothing has changed in Pembrokeshire. The busiest line in Pembrokeshire (Tenby and Pembroke Dock) is still served by one coach trains packed to the gunnels with passengers standing down the aisles while the least used line in Pembrokeshire (Fishguard) enjoys three coach trains operating direct rail services to Manchester! Only a nationalized industry would behave in this way. The one line in Pembrokeshire with potential for massive growth is the Tenby and Pembroke Dock line. Yet Transport for Wales does not even have the foresight to operate trains that connect with the two daily Pembroke Dock to Rosslare ferry sailings. The poor frequency of service looks set to continue well into the future with the possibility of one extra train being provided on a Sunday from 2024.
So where is all the promised investment in improved services being spent? Take a guess. Cardiff and the valleys is the answer. Indeed it has been suggested that Transport for Wales should be more accurately called Transport for Cardiff. Service frequencies on all the valley lines will be every 15 minutes. New rolling stock will be introduced and all the valley lines will be electrified. This is where nearly all the money is being spent. The rest of Wales is being offered minor improvements only.
West of Cardiff there appears to be little or no changes to Transport for Wales services. However it’s not all bad news. First Great Western trains have recently announced that it is to reduce the journey time between London and Cardiff by 15 minutes following the successful introduction of their new bimodal trains. Let us hope Transport for Wales adjusts its timetable (in December 2019) for connecting trains accordingly and does not just make everyone wait at Swansea for an extra 15 minutes! A so called open access operator, Grand Union Trains, has applied for permission to operate express intercity trains from Llanelli to Cardiff and London Paddington and the British government in London has announced plans to develop a new parkway station at Swansea to be called West Wales Parkway. If these plans come to fruition our local services will hopefully be retimed and possibly rerouted to connect into these faster services. Time will tell.
Tenby Civic Society has been campaigning for improvements in the existing timetable to improve connections from Cardiff and London. The proposal put forward involved retiming two late evening trains by 20 minutes and hence provide a later connection to Tenby and Pembroke Dock from both Cardiff and London. Sadly Transport for Wales was not interested. It seems to be too much effort for them to change train times and provide a decent connecting service to Tenby and Pembroke Dock. For the time being it appears to be more of the same old inefficient services.
The picture accompanying this blog was taken on Saturday 17 August 2019 and shows the 10.55 Carmarthen to Pembroke Dock service arriving at Tenby at 11.50. The one car train was packed with every seat taken and the aisles and door vestibules filled to capacity with standing customers. One hundred and seventeen passengers alighted from this one coach train at Tenby. About another 20 passengers remained onboard for stations to Pembroke Dock. It would be illegal to transport animals in these conditions but Transport for Wales seem happy to transport people in these overcrowded one coach trains. This is a regular occurrence during the summer months. When will the bureaucrats in Cardiff learn that these one coach trains are totally unsuitable for the busiest line in Pembrokeshire?
Sadly, the only certainty regarding our train services is that Transport for Wales will be increasing its fares by 2.8% in January next year. Some things never change!