Friday 16th April 2021
It used to cost just £14 to land on Monopoly’s Bow Street but in 2021 the latest new station of the same name (added to Britain’s rail network on 14th February) has come in at a tad higher cost than that – an eyebrow raising £8 million – to build. And I reckon the “Mortgage Value of Site” will be somewhat more than £90.
When I wrote about the station, located just over 3 miles north east of Aberystwyth, in a couple of previous blogs (here and here) I struggled with the idea it was costing so much to build a one platform, basic facility affair, all the more so as it was serving a nearby village with a population of just 2,000.
So following the Government’s announcement at the beginning of this week the English can once again hop across the border into Wales I made my way over to Bow Street today to take a look.
The Welsh Government funded half the £8 million cost with the DfT handing over the other half from its New Stations Fund (NSF). This NSF’s second funding round has seen two other new stations hit the tracks – Warrington West (in December 2019) and Horden, County Durham (in June 2020), with two others – Portway Parkway (near Bristol) and Reading Green Park – yet to open.
Bow Street’s credentials were boasted as featuring “cycle storage, park and ride facilities, and a multi-modal transport interchange”. As you can imagine I was particularly interested in the latter especially as an innovative ‘docking platform’ for buses to pull up alongside had been promised. It turned out to be nothing more than a fancy bit of kerb. And the cycle facilities are just six round pole stabling thingies.
Commentators on my previous blogposts observed the park and ride was probably aimed more at passengers travelling towards Machynlleth and on to Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton and Birmingham rather than into Aberystwyth, since the current two-hourly frequency is hardly going to attract motorists to forgo the last few miles as they drive into the nearby town centre. Maybe once the train frequency improves this will change as motorists aim to avoid Aberystwyth’s traffic queues.
However, the car park capacity is just 73 spaces so not many park and riding passengers are anticipated even in good travel times. There were no takers today save for just one car hidden away in the far corner
I printed off Transport for Wales (TfW)’s original specification for Bow Street station to take with me today so I could do an inventory check and make sure that £8 million has all been spent on……
As you can see from the following photographs the inventory checks off pretty much perfectly….
Then there’s that bus shelter with its promised timetable information….
…. sadly there’s no printed timetable information only a useless real time display that refers you to the non existent timetable. And a blank plate alongside which I assume is meant to display the bus stop flag.
The multi-modal interchange opportunities the station heralded are somewhat academic and more appealing to theorists than anything to do with practical timetabling. Local bus route 512 operated by Mid Wales Travel, runs via Bow Street on its route linking Aberystwyth with Borth and Ynyslas but there’s a much better timed connection between the hourly bus timetable and two-hourly train timetable at the next station up the line at Borth itself.
Lloyds Coaches route X28 provides an hourly bus service between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth so the potential connection at Bow Street is somewhat irrelevant, and all the more so as the times don’t connect while the third bus route through Bow Street, TrawsCymru’s route T2, is currently on a restricted six/seven journeys a day so is largely irrelevant to multi modal possibilities.
But you’d struggle to find out all of that since no information is displayed – not even train timetables.
As you’d expect there’s good access to the new platform including both a ramp …
… and a few steps.
Around 2,000 people live in the nearby community of Bow Street now benefiting from their new station and there’s a new UK Innovation and Research Centre associated with Aberystwyth University located about three-quarters of a mile away along the A4159 which may also bring some custom.
And I reckon it’s the “improvements to the existing A4159 junction with the A487” mentioned in the checklist which have consumed a hefty chunk of that £8 million spend. Not so much a “New Station Fund” but more a “Road Junction Improvement Fund”.
Not only that but the improvements have included building a footpath and cycle path along the A4159 towards the new Research Centre which must have cost a fair bit.
However I think it would be optimistic to expect many people to use the train to access this facility especially while the train frequency is so poor, and it’s quite a long walk.
I thought my audit was going so well I should take a read of the small print displayed on the Information Board and it soon became evident the person writing it hadn’t done their research …
…. with cycle storage allegedly on the platform …
… and even more worrying, the station apparently has two platforms!
Pre-Covid estimates made for the Welsh Government predicted “Bow Street station would generate 30,000 annual trips and take nearly 466,000 vehicle miles off the local road network a year – helping reduce carbon emissions and congestion and parking issues in nearby Aberystwyth”. That’s around 40 passengers a day (assuming a return journey each).
I was pleasantly surprised that as my train arrived at Bow Street at lunchtime today another passenger alighted and five people were waiting to board to travel into Aberystwyth, with the same number alighting on the next train arriving from Aberystwyth.
Not bad for a small village. But I’m not sure it’s all been worth £8 million – especially as the hourly bus route 512 called by with a similar number of passengers on board while I was visiting.
Interestingly the house alongside the entrance to the new station off the A487 has painted a welcome message on its rear, facing the station. Perhaps they’re not keen on the £8 million spend either.
But I’m sure they appreciate that newly improved road junction.
And the seats with a splendid view of the car park.
Just need to put a hotel on the site now. That’ll push the rent up to a wapping £950 if you land on Bow Street.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.