Sunday 13th January 2021
* that’s Welsh for confusion.
I’ve always liked the TrawsCymru network and brand. It’s grown in size and extent over the years providing frequent links across Wales, mostly on corridors where there’s no rail option.
The branding is consistently applied thanks to the Transport for Wales policy of specifying and even providing the vehicles for many of the routes, and has just been updated with a smart new look building on the traditional green, white and red.
Some routes are branded TrawsCymru Connect, particularly shorter routes which feed into the network.
I see route T12 between Wrexham and Machynlleth, which I travelled on when it first began in early 2019 is now one such TrawsCymru Connect branded route, which is a bit confusing as it’s a long route – longer than the other cross east-west Wales route, the T3 between Wrexham and Barmouth, which gets full on Traws Cymru branding, including on the double decks which can be found on the route.
But I’m even more confused about what the future holds for TrawsCymru as a network of frequent cross-Wales routes.
Transport for Wales has recently commissioned consultants Arup to carry out a “bus network review” for the Welsh Government which it’s reported has recommended rationalising the Welsh bus network in a number of places so there are fewer but more frequent routes serving main corridors with less duplication (as Arup sees it) and less diversions to serve residential areas or destinations such as a regional general hospital (in the case of Llandudno).
This will no doubt lead to some unhappy passengers when they find out they’ll need to either take a long walk at the start or end of their journeys or change buses, maybe even twice, for a journey which could previously have been made direct.
But it’s the Review’s take on Traws Cymru which has left me puzzled.
It is reported that frequencies are going to be reduced, in some cases quite substantially, indicating a possible downgrading of the network’s status, but at the same time yet another new route has recently been added to the network – the T19 between Llandudno Junction and Blaenau Ffestiniog – with another one – the T22 between Caernarfon, Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog to come shortly. Six new battery electric buses costing £3.6 million are on order for these two routes.
As an example of possible changes ahead, the Review reckons the hourly route T1 between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen (where rail fanatics talk fondly of reinstating the tracks) will be cut back to just two to four journeys a day.
Meanwhile there’s talk of a new T7 between Chepstow and Bristol (taking over the current X7) which would become one of the most frequent routes with six journeys a day whereas ironically the route is not exactly ‘TrawsCymru’ but more ‘TrawsEngland’ where most of the route lies (it drops off the network map in the bottom right corner as shown above).
Route T19 joined the Traws Cymru network on 29th May. It’s shown on the updated diagrammatic route map (see above) and added to the route listing underneath but slotted in at the end, rather than in numerical order which niggles me.
The T19 has simply replaced the previous route numbered X19 but now under the TrawsCymru brand. The timetable seems similar and it’s still operated by Llew Jones who also operate the less frequent route 19 which also links Llandudno with Betws-y-Coed but using the western side of the Conwy Valley.
The T19 uses the eastern side giving a quicker journey time along the A470.
Of course there’s also the Transport for Wales branded rail service between Llandudno, Llandudno Junction, Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog which has comparable journey times to the T19 and a similar sparse timetable. Which did make me wonder about the Traws Cymru brand – maybe it would make more sense to either brand the network as Transport for Wales in similar style as the trains now are – or even better trains using the main cross Wales lines (ie along the north coast, mid-Wales, south Wales, Heart of Wales and Conwy Valley) should be branded as TrawsCymru – to give a sense of integration.
All the more so as it’s good to see journeys on the Monday to Saturday timetables on bus and rail along the Conwy Valley offer good coordination. There are four return rail journeys a day approximately every three hours and there are five return bus journeys which very broadly slot in between the train times.
The last southbound train from Llandudno is as early as 16:17 but there are later journeys on the T19 at 16:45 and 18:10. Northbound the reverse holds true with the last T19 leaving Blaenau Ffestiniog for Llandudno at 16:50 but there’s a train at 17:35.
Unfortunately though the same positivity doesn’t hold good on Sundays when two of the four return rail journeys run at pretty much the same time as the bus – eg leaving Blaenau Ffestiniog there’s a train at 14:59 and a bus at 15:00; a train at 17:28 and a bus at 17:40. There are similar clashes southbound too. What a shame; and a wasted opportunity. It’s integration Cornwall style!
One could hope proper integration would mean one timetable presentation showing both train and bus, common fares and inter availability of tickets.
Against all this background, I thought I’d give the new route T19 a try out yesterday.
There was a convenient departure leaving Llandudno Junction at 12:08 which gave a reasonable connection with my train arriving at 11:59. It was a little tighter than I like but I decided to go with it, knowing the bus stop is conveniently sited right alongside the station exit.
Right outside the station there’s the usual poster board supposedly containing “Public Transport Information”….
…. and a little further along, by the bus shelter too.
But less impressive is the useless information posted on them – although there is a train timetable on the bus shelter display.
The bus stop timetable case is useless.
Just after midday a bus on route 19 turned up heading towards Llandudno and I was rather perturbed to overhear a couple enquiring about the T19 departure time to be told by a Llew Jones member of staff on board it was 12:38.
After a quick check on Google maps advising it was 12:08 I also enquired of said member of staff and he explained he was referring to the previous X19 times, as he didn’t have a T19 timetable, which turned out not to be very helpful.
There’s nothing less reassuring than empty timetable cases and staff giving out conflicting information with what’s available online.
We kept our fingers crossed he was wrong as my travel companions were in a hurry and I had a connection further south. Luckily almost as soon as the 19 had headed off into Llandudno a smart looking bus on the T19 duly appeared.
This Optare Tempo had previously been used by New Adventure Travel on the T9 Cardiff to Cardiff Wales Airport route which has been suspended since the pandemic.
It ‘s been given the fresh new look (designed by Best Impressions) with an updated and much bolder logo with the same quality comfortable seating inside ….
…. as well as a couple of tables in the rear raised section.
Although I found the rear facing high back seats meant the forward view from the forward facing seats at the tables was very restricted…
…. ironically making the lower level forward facing section a better bet for scenery spotting – and there’s lots of scenery to spot on this route as it speeds down the valley.
There were six of us on the journey down to Betws-y-Coed and Blaneau Ffestiniog, with one leaving us soon after we began to head south down the valley along the A470 at Gian Conwy.
Our driver wasn’t hanging about and we soon arrived at the only major settlement on this section of route at Llanwrst where we turned off the main road into the bus turning area and pulled up behind another similarly branded Traws Cymru vehicle in the new livery waiting there and were all asked to change buses.
No-one explained why.
Two passengers got off as we retraced our route around the side roads of Llanwrst leaving the three of us to alight in Betws-y-Coed and the bus continued empty on to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
I was sorry not to be continuing on, as it’s a great section of route down to Blaenau but I had another important mission … trying out one of Transport for Wales new Fflecsi branded DRT operations which had began in the Conwy Valley last November.
That experience will be covered in the next riveting episode to be uploaded during the coming week.
In the meantime I’ll leave you with a rear end view of the new “connecting Wales/cysyiltu Cymru” branded bus while I further ponder the future of TrawsCymru.
I think for the T22 it runs from Caernarfon not Carmarthen.
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Thanks for that – now corrected.
And it goes neither to “Portlamdog” nor “Blaneau” Ffestiniog!
One thing I do wonder with the Trawscymru network is timing on such long routes. For instance, precise timings at minor stops are given on the T4 all the way between Cardiff and Newtown … but does the bus hang around at lots of in-between points if running early? I don’t know,
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At least I got Ffestiniog right! Have corrected and suitably admonished my fat fingers. Many thanks for pointing those out.
Early running on the T4? Chance would be a fine thing. I suspect it happens early in the morning and late at night but in the daytime traffic is just so variable that it hardly ever happens. (Not helped by Stagecoach still using times from the COVID timetable when there was no traffic on the roads).
PS The service between Porthmadog and Caernarfon has never returned to the levels enjoyed before the Express Motors debacle a few years ago. I wonder who is running the T22 – will it be Lloyds coaches who run existing services, or someone else entirely?
Even more interesting today, Sunday 13 June, on the integration question:-
The 1340 and 1615 trains from Llandudno Junction and their returns at 1459 and 1728 from Blaenau Ffestiniog are shown as cancelled, because of “resource availability” and that “rail replacement road transport will be provided”
So presumably that means two buses will be chasing each other up and down the valley within minutes, and then a long gap before the next service of any kind.
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Now that truly is crazy. “Resource availability” seems to be impacting a number of TOCs and London Underground these days.
The TOCs are suffering from “resource availability” issues mainly because they still employ fewer staff than needed and rely on those staff working overtime week in, week out.
Unfortunately for them, railway staff are just as desperate to get away from home for a bit of a break as anyone else now travel is allowed again, and so fewer staff are willing to give up their days off for their employers at the moment. TOC management do seem to forget that their “people” have lives outside work.
That’s not helped by some pretty toxic staff relations on some TOCs at the moment, which those TOCs are as usual dismissing publicly as “unreasonable pay claims” when pay is nothing to do with it, which in turn means TOC staff in the various essential operating grades – even those who aren’t members of the unions or grades affected – are simply not willing to help the company out. Why would they?
Oh, and all TOCs have a massive backlog of training to catch up on and to top it all it seems that at least one TOC decided to increase service levels beyond what they could actually resource with 100% staff cover anyway. I’ve heard from colleagues on EMR that emergency timetables are being introduced soon on their local routes, with a significant reduction in service levels on some routes. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if other TOCs are looking at doing the same.
Hi Roger Map of Wales is not up to standard Disgruntled of Haywards Heath
Sent from Tony’s iPad Pro
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You’ll have to have a go at improving it!
There’s some issue with how the map image is included in your blog page; it’s displayed at an unreadably low resolution (at least for me and presumably for Tony).
When I check the image URL it ends with `?w=207`, which must be added by WordPress for some reason, and without that rescaling parameter it’s fine.
Thanks for that. I’ll reload the image later this evening.
The t& has had many changes of operator and route number. Non managed to make a success of it. From Memory a good decade or tow back it was jointly operated by Stagecoach and first bus and operated between Newport and Bristol. Stagecoach lost interest i n it and First bus carried on alone. At one time I think they extended it to Cardiff. In more recent times Fist Bus gave it up and Stagecoach took it on. They operated it for quite a short while and the gave it up. NAT buses stepped in and they took it on for a short while only to give it up at this stage I think Transport for Wales stepped in and a contract was awarded to Newport Bus. The route though was cut back to between Chepstow & Bristol and after a few weeks the frequency of the service was significantly reduced. Quite why Transport for Wales is supporting this service is a bit of mystery as only a tiny amount of the route operates in Wales
It might be sensible to extend it to Bristol Airport but I dont see that happening. It might also make sense at weekends to extended it to Brecon which might generate some tourist traffic
The route used to have some commuter traffic but it has been cut back so much it has lost that traffic so the only real purpose it has now is shopping trips to Bristol and I doubt that will generate enough passengers to keep it going
As alluded to in the previous comment, the integration of the X7 to become T7 in the Traws Cymru network actually happened in January (I suspect that the operation by NAT under the “Traws Hafren” banner was only ever intended to be a short term arrangement whilst a more permanent arrangement was tendered). The reduction in frequency during the winter was only temporary due to the lockdown and the service is now operating hourly. It does cry out to be extended further into Wales though as there is currently nothing fast out of Newport for it to connect with.
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Hi, I think the T19 buses were previously operated by New Adventure Travel to Cardiff Airport, not First Cymru. The latter operated the offsite park and ride at the airport, not the T9.
The only thing that people need to understand about TrawsCymru is that, like the UK rail network, it’s not actually there to provide a usable public service; it’s there’s simply so the politicians can play at public transport.
It’s pretty much a big boy’s equivalent of the child pushing buses along the carpet along their planned route from Front Room Settee to Under The Kitchen Table via The Foot Of The Stairs. Hopefully without being attacked by random Giant Kittens or Puppies though.
Unfortunately, as with the big boys train set that is about to become Great British Railways, the people who (as always) lose out are the customers who actually need a usable bus and rail network, and the staff who actually have to try to make the insanity work, but since when have politicians cared about any of them?
I can’t help wondering if there is a serious lack of joined-up thinking in Wales just now. With the railways now (effectively) nationalised in Wales . . . shouldn’t TrawsCymru now be refocussed towards (a) filling in the rail network gaps and (b) providing proper links between bus and train, such that they actually connect !!
The timings along the Conwy Valley might be an ideal small-scale trial . . . maybe with interavailable tickets as well !!
That’d be novel . . . . of course, some planners with experience of (and knowledge of) bus and train wouldn’t hurt !!
So the Trans Cymru Web site does indeed show the T7 service is hourly. The Newport Bus web site though contradicts this and that says 2 hourly
The Newport Bus web site timetables section does show the T7 as hourly, but you have to remember to change the date to a weekday.