Tuesday 23rd May 2023
As well as travelling on fflecsi to explore the Dale Peninsular as described a couple of weeks ago I also used the TrawsCymru network while in the area on a more extensive itinerary to enjoy more of the glorious scenery across south west Wales.
Some time ago the TrawsCymru network was expanded to include two routes branded as TrawsCymru Connect – the 460 between Carmarthen and Cardigan via Newcastle Emlyn and the X43 between Brecon and Abergavenny which I’ve added in blue on the map above. I’m not sure I understand the distinction between TrawsCymru Connect and TrawsCymru so I took a ride on the 460 to kick off my visit to find out.
The route runs hourly on Mondays to Fridays with three vehicles – two provided by Richards Bros and one from Morris Travel. I caught the 13:33 from right outside Carmarthen rail station, a journey operated by the Morris Travel bus, which I obviously immediately spotted was in the company’s own livery rather than TrawsCymru (TC) – although the two buses we passed on the journey from Richards Bros were both in TrawsCymru livery but that company does run a significant number of other TC liveried buses on the T5 and T11.
I also noticed a rather odd notice inside the bus advising “Morris Travel only operates the 460 service Monday to Friday. This service does not operate on Saturdays” from which, if you didn’t know about Richard’s Bros, you would deduce there’s no Saturday timetable on the 460 and only Morris Travel run the service on a Monday to Friday. Which is wrong on both counts. The 460 does run on Saturdays – Richards Bros provide a two hourly servcie, and it’s not “Morris Travel only” running the Monday to Friday service as already explained.
Even worse on the TrawsCymru website only the Richard Bros journeys are shown in the timetable on Mondays to Fridays and on Saturdays a message states the service “does not run”. You do get a full timetable if you click on the drop down menu for a “Select PDF to View” but goodness me, how to confuse passengers and dissuade them from travelling.
Looking at the Richards Bros website it looks to me as though the Morris Travel journeys were added from 9th January, but it’s a poor show the TrawsCymru website is displaying out of date information over four months later.
We carried nine passengers from Carmarthen setting four down as we headed out of town towards the villages of Drefach and Felindre where we picked two more up arriving into Newcastle Emlyn where we dropped off three and picked three more up and that was it until we reached Cardigan at 15:14 with two passengers having travelled all the way.
From Cardigan I just caught the 15:15 route T5 down to Fishguard and Haverfordwest. The last time I travelled on this route it ran from Aberystwyth to Haverfordwest – a three hour and 15 minute journey – but now the hourly timetable has been split into two in Cardigan with seven minute connections in the southbound direction and five minutes northbound on most journeys (some don’t have a connection at all and some a longer gap) but pointedly each journey on the pdf version of the timetable has a code “NG” which means “No guaranteed connection at Cardigan Finch Square due to traffic” making for another negative dissuasion from using TrawsCymru for long journeys.
Furthermore, the interchange “hub” in Cardigan wouldn’t win any prizes for timetable presentation. In fact, for a so called busy transfer point, the state of the bus shelters and provision of information is an absolute disgrace.
How those responsible think this is a way to attract passengers is beyond me. You’d have no confidence the information was up to date.
Journey time for my school day journey from Cardigan to Haverfordwest was 71 minutes (it runs earlier on school holidays) and we left on time with nine on board – including six school children who soon alighted leaving three plus another passenger who boarded along the way with all of whom alighting in Newport at 15:29. Three boarded in Newport with two soon alighting again with no other passengers boarding until Fishguard at 15:50 where eight got on bringing us back up to nine. Six alighted as we headed south towards Haverfordwest with two getting off at the temporary bus station and one continued to the rail station. All in all, not a particularly busy journey for a school day peak afternoon.
Pembrokeshire County Council are about to start work on a new “Public Transport Interchange” in Haverfordwest with buses currently using an adjacent piece of land which although restricted looked to me to be more than adequate for the numbers travelling and the number of buses.
I’m sure the new arrangements will include much improved facilities though, and although it’s good to see investment in a new build I was left wondering what “Public Transport” would interchange there other than buses – the rail station is located further on.
My next TrawsCymru experience was on route T11 which also runs between Haverfordwest and Fishguard but instead of taking a direct route via the A40, as the T5 does, it does a ‘sideways on V’ arrangement along the A487 via Britain’s smallest city of St Davids. The T11 is a relative newcomer to the TrawsCymru brand being added around four years ago as another TrawsCymru Connect having replaced a conventionally numbered bus route.
Now it’s a fully fledged TrawsCymru route having dropped the Connect mantle and takes two buses to provide eight journeys a day Mondays to Saturdays with a break in a couple of the hour and 45 minute journey times in St Davids to fit in with school times. I caught the 12:00 departure from Haverfordwest and dropped off in St Davids to take a look around…
… which is always worth doing ….
…. then catching the 15:23 journey onwards to Fishguard which had picked up eleven school children who we dropped off as we headed along the A487. Another passenger who boarded with me in St Davids had also caught the 12:00 from Haverfordwest and when we got to Fishguard we began chatting and it turned out he’s a driver with Go North East and was on a short busman’s holiday travelling around as well as being a regular reader of this blog – what a small world it is when you travel by bus. It was great to meet you – he asked me not to include his name.
Having arrived into Fishguard at 16:08 we both caught the T5 leaving for Cardigan at 16:55 arriving there at 1732. My new companion was heading on to Aberystwyth and had to wait for a departure at 18:07 (see what I mean about connections on what was once a through service?) but I finished my day’s travels in Cardigan. It had been another quiet journey – especially for a peak time bus – with only four other passengers.
The next morning I was up early for the 06:57 T5 from Cardigan to Aberystwyth which started off being quiet but by the time we reached Aberystwyth at nearly 08:55 – nearly ten minutes late due to two sets of temporary traffic lights – we had a good number of passengers on board having carried 54 on the journey in total.
It’s a lovely route offering some wonderful early morning coastal views…
…. but one thing that’s noticeable since I last travelled the route is how it now diverts off the main A487 to serve Parcllyn and Aberporth and then New Quay. I reckon the former adds about 10 minutes and the latter 15 minutes to the previous journey time when the bus ran direct. On the plus side it meant we picked up more passengers and no doubt savings have been made by withdrawing bus routes that previously served those coastal communities – although I noticed some bus stop flags still hankered back to the previous route numbers.
But the downside is it makes the service even more unattractive to long distance passengers – one of the original aims of the TrawsCymru network being complimentary to the rail network.
And so to Aberystwyth from where I had a choice of onward travel leaving at 09:40 back towards Carmarthen – either the controversial once a day T1C which operates via Aberaeron to Carmarthen and onward to Cardiff or the T1A, a once a day variation on the hourly T1 taking advantage of the T1C going the normal T1 route via Aberaeron by following a slightly different route as far as Lampeter giving a southbound morning journey for hamlets including Llanilar, Lledrod, Tyncelyn and Tregaron. I don’t know how useful this is for anyone living in those places as the equivalent return journey isn’t until around 20:30 in the evening (when the T1C wends its way back from Cardiff via Aberaeron again).
The T1 is now operated by smart new electric Yutong buses by First Cymru and was very tempting to try but I decided to have a ride all the way to Cardiff on the T1C ad I’d not done that before.
The T1C is ‘controversial’ simply because of the huge subsidy per passenger. The coach and driver sit in Cardiff between arrival at 13:50 and the return journey leaving at 17:10 arriving back into Aberystwyth at 21:20 making for pretty much a 12 hour day. We carried 17 passengers, three of whom could have caught a T1 or T5 as far as Aberaeron and one travelled ‘locally’ from Port Talbot to Cardiff.
A recent development is the previous T1C operator, Adventure Travel, gave notice to quit the route at the end of March leaving Transport for Wales/TrawsCymru looking round for a replacement which was found in Mid Wales Travel.
Whereas Adventure Travel used a TrawsCymru branded coach, Mid Wales Travel are currently using one in their own livery. It does have a toilet on board – a godsend for an end to end journey time of four hours and 10 minutes although there is a ten minute break in Carmarthen and I also noted the running time is very generous requiring us to wait time at a number of points during the journey to the extent I reckon you could take half an hour out of the schedule.
It’s reported the annual cost of providing the T1C is £167,841 working out at a subsidy per passenger journey of £14.91 with an average number of passengers per journey of 15.5. A recent issue of Passenger Transport magazine reports concerns that contracts have been awarded for the service “without once completing an assessment of value for money. A Freedom of Information Act request elicited the response that the Welsh Government hadn’t carried out any such assessments since the service was introduced in 2016 but “consultants will look at the existing T1C with a view to identifying options to make the service more attracrive to longer-distance passengers and this work is ongoing”.
One way to do this might be to review the running times as explained above. After Carmarthen the route take the fast flowing dual carriageway A48 with a small detour via Cross Hands (no-one boarded or alighted) and then on to the M4, coming off four times at Baglan, Port Talbot, Sarn and Pencoed Services but on my journey only Port Talbot saw two passengers alight and the aforementioned one board. The coach then enters Cardiff via the A4232 and Cardiff Bay where we dropped two off and finally arrived alongside the south entrance to Cardiff Central railway station with six on board.
Another suggestion would be to ensure details of the journey are properly included on the TrawsCymru website. Whereas it’s shown on the combined timetable for the T1/T1A it doesn’t appear at all on the pdf version on the click through so you wouldn’t know it existed, if relying on that.
Also, it would be helpful to ensure an up to date departure list is displayed in Carmarthen where the bus stands in Lamas Street (it doesn’t use the bus station). I noticed the out of date listing there was showing a departure for Cardiff at 11:05 whereas it’s been at 11:40 for some weeks.
The T1C is an interesting route to travel on with a variety of scenic views from the coast to…
… picturesque villages and hamlets …
.. to lovely countryside …
…. to woodland …
…. to the motorway.
There’s an £11 day ticket which covers travel on the whole TrawsCymru network including Cardiff but West Wales Rovers and 1Bws tickets are also available and valid in the designated areas for those tickets.
I enjoyed my travels on TrawsCymru as I always do but there was a time when it was clear what the TrawsCymru brand stood for. I’m not really sure nowadays and my trips last week only left me further confused. I reckon a printed timetable showing all the routes and a nice map would be helpful and encourage passengers too.
Some of the journeys I made could certainly do with more passengers.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS
40 years ago there was a catchy little booklet called’Principal bus and train services in Wales’ published by British Rail., which did exactly what it said on the tin. I could not find T1C on the TC website.
As Roger found TC publicity woeful. I wonder how much the whole TC network costs in subsidy, is that number available anywhere? Whatever it is it will be dwarfed by the rail subsidy,
I don’t see the point of T1C, as southbound connections in Carmarthen are available off T1A. Traditionally this route was a means of travelling from north Wales to Swansea and Cardiff, and vice versa. Two coaches would leave Bangor and Cardiff after having done something useful in the morning peak, travel to Aberystwyth, swap passengers with 30 minutes R&R for everyone and return home after lunch. The service was very heavily used on Friday and Sundays by students, with a later afternoon journey ex Aberystwyth on Friday and return from South Wales on Sunday.
The T1C is the bus equivalent of “got to have a direct train to London”.
It serves the same perceived ‘need’ of having to have a direct link to the capital with no changes for no better reason than that politicians feel better if their constituency has a direct link. It doesn’t necessarily provide a useful and cost-effective service for the passengers, although of course it will for some, and most journeys it supposedly enables are already possible at higher frequency with one change.
Welsh concessionary bus passes are valid on the T1C which they aren’t on the train from Carmarthen to Cardiff, although I’m not sure that’s much of a justification for it.
Peninsula, not peninsular……
…and complementary, not complimentary.
Although I’m sure TrawsCymru do say nice things about the railway lines it links, and given the huge subsidy it may as well be free!
The Morris working on the 460 was previously worked by First, but in the post covid / brexit driver shortages, First completely cancelled the working. Guess Morris was brought in to cover, but perhaps could not take in Saturdays ??
Hi Roger, is this the map you are looking for. https://images-transportforwales.passenger-website.com/2023-05/TfW_Bus_Network_Map-web.pdf
Also there is a combined map with rail here https://images-transportforwales.passenger-website.com/2023-03/TfW_Rail-Bus_Network_Map_ENGLISH-WEB.pdf
This brings back memories:
1. My Ian Allan BBF19 (Crosville) from 1964 has a black and white photo on the cover showing a Lodekka climbing away from the sea near Aberporth on route S5 which appears to be a predecessor of the T5.
2. While holidaying in Aberystwyth in about 1982 I took a day trip by bus to Cardiff on what I think was route 701, which ran via Lampeter.
What is the purpose of the T1C? There is a regular rail service to Cardiff. It does involve a change of train but must ne a more attractive option
I cannot see it ever attracting many passengers,.. Just the odd concessionary pass holder that wants day in Cardiff
Seems to be the same old story, out of date and scrappy roadside information, out of date and confusing website.
Compare and contrast with the Swiss Post bus network via this visual feast. A journey on an ADL Enviro 500. Beautiful scenery, challenging topography, interesting going through St Gallen with its trolley buses, and the tram train to Trogen.
The big difference between Swiss public transport and British public transport is that the Swiss consistently support funding their public transport through taxation whenever asked to do so through referenda. The British, on the other hand, consistently vote for politicians who offer tax cuts instead.
The Swiss have massively supported major enhancement projects and new lines, whereas the British campaign against them.
Is it any surprise that British public transport can’t compare?
Yes, I couldn’t have put it any better myself. The saying “you get what you pay for” certainly applies here.
Did you notice how every bus stop in the video had a uniform flag, and a timetable. Surely Traws Cymru, if it is a true long distance express, have prominent bus stop flags, of a higher design spec of the standard DfT design and well presented timetable cases.
The whole TC network could and should be a credit to Wales, but sadly hamstrung by Politicians who really haven’t a clue about basic bus operation and how it should be operated. Woeful lack of publicity, both in booklet form and as illustrated in Cardigan, starvation of funding to buses (77% of all passenger journeys) in favour of rail (21%) and a general lack of joined-up thinking make a sorry story.
A recent report in Passenger Transport highlighted the Welsh Government spending £56,844 on just two digital departure screens at bus stops in Llanrwst. Problem? One has no scheduled departures at all and the other very few as most now converted to DRT.
A Cautionary Tale for those so eager for buses to be handed back to Political control, the T1C, whilst a “nice to have” being just one more example.
How an earth can they spend £56.844 on just two displays ? I would guess they are old style displays that need a mains power supply. The epaper type displays do not need a power supply they use batteries that can last 3 years they can also have a small solar panel and they will last until the battery fails much lower cost as well
Splitting the T5 at Cardigan is really only going back to the old arrangement when they were comoletely different routes, and at least you don’t have to also change at Synod Inn anymore. But given Richards run both sides of Cardigan, surely logic dictates they should be linked up as through buses across Cardigan, at least at times where it is only 0 or 5 mins between them. Otherwise the two halves have no right being called the same route number.
I think the Welsh have the right idea with TrawsCymru. If the regulatory and financial arrangements were completely in their favour I’m sure they would be going for a fully integrated public transport network. Perhaps similar to the South Tyrol in northern Italy or indeed Switzerland. But it’s true politicians and their civil servants do seem unable to get full value for their cash. Why can’t a senior bus manager be recruited into their ranks to ensure quality and quantity for every pound spent?
The original concept seemed to be a network of long distance limited stop coaches, A bit like London’s old Greenline Network
The big problem seems to be low passenger numbers.
Is it down to inconsistent branding, poor publicity, poor information at bus stops and hubs or is it that not many people want to make these journeys.
“is it that not many people want to make these journeys”
It’s this. TC routes run through beautiful countryside, but that’s what it is – countryside. Like all countryside, it’s sparsely populated with villages and small towns as population centres. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the TC routes per se, it’s that there simply aren’t the people there to use them.
Does than then not suggest they should be made seasonal services ? and use a local taxi company to run a DRT service out of season
A big problem in my view is that rail and bus are seen s two totally separate transport systems rather than seeing bus and rail as a single integrated network,. The rail service will be subsidised ad frequently a parallel bus service will be as well
Transport for Wal es would dearly love to see an integrated network. However they are only responsible for TrawsCymru buses and TfW Rail trains, which leaves a lot outside their control. Even in Cardiff and Newport not all the bus services are run by the municipally-owned bus companies.
There is of course a question as to whether TC buses and TfW Rail trains could or should be better dovetailed together.
Serious accident affecting Vectare service 505′ Amn Air Ambulance attended. Hopefully the driver and passengers were not seriously injured
Earlier today one of our vehicles, operating on Service 505, was involved in a serious RTC. The incident has extensively damaged the vehicle and unfortunately some passengers on board and our driver sustained injuries.
Due to the seriousness of the incident we have had no choice but to suspend Service 505 for the remainder of today.
Our focus this afternoon has been on the wellbeing of those involved and we would like to place on record our thanks to the emergency services who attended the scene and assisted in the care of those injured, including our driver.
10 People were injured 6 were treated at the scene and not taken to hospital 4 were taken by land ambulances to the Princess Alecxander Hospital i n Harlow
A list of 21 failing bus services may have to be “redesigned” as Essex County Council indicates on demand services as the future. Of those that have been categorised as of “low use” are the C56 from Chelmsford to Galleywood, the number 6 in Harlow and the 94 in South Woodham Ferrers. The cost of support to these 21 services amount to £1.1m per year.
This group of 21 low use services that are currently significantly failing the value for money are operating at a cost of at least £10 per passenger journey. A consultation is being launched to run through the summer to look at the options and “We have to look at whether they can show a prospect of recovery”.
France to Ban all short haul internal flights
France is banning all short haul internal flights where suitable alternative rail services exist. Should the UK look to do the same ?
Essex-wide Bus Shelter Project
There is no specification mentioned. Maybe it needs an email to them
It would be nice if they used epaper for the timetable rather than paper that way it should always be up to date and longer term it must say money as well as reducing the amount of paper used. They displays could carry some advertising which would generate bit of revenue
Essex County Council is developing a pioneering collaboration with colleagues from City, Borough and District councils across Essex which will give our residents better bus shelters and encourage more people to use sustainable transport across Essex.
The Essex-wide Bus Shelter project will establish a long-term contract to create a better bus shelter estate, including all maintenance, cleaning, replacement and supply of shelters – all paid for from the generation of income by the new supplier, through advertising.
The project will deliver: “a sustainable and quality bus infrastructure network that provides consistency of experience, is commercially focussed and future proofed”
Modernisation of bus shelters – improving customer experience for passengers – aiming to increase the number of people using buses
Building more bus shelters – through commercial income, offering more passengers a seat at the bus stop and protection from bad weather
Planned cleaning – offering a better bus stop experience and encouraging more people to travel by bus
Estate rationalisation and reduced street clutter – improved street scene environment for residents and improved accessibility
Income leveraged from advertising – replacing taxpayer funding with commercial funding
After being suitably impressed with a Yutong electric bus destined for Newport Transport that National Express Coventry trialled for two weeks. Your tantalising image of similar vehicle on Traws Cymru in Aberystwyth provided the impetus to sample similar vehicles in South Wales.
An adventure on T1 today lived up to the hype and I thoroughly recommend it to you, coming equipped with cumfy seats, all modcons and also timetable leaflets. I’ve used an Explore Wales Rover valid on rail and major bus operators to seek out other Yutong electric buses in the area. Sadly its not valid on Newport Transport but a South East Wales day ticket sufficed for £9, good value as single from Chepstow to Newport is £4.40. I will have further adventures in Cardiff estates on Monday and Tuesday sampling Cardiff Buses examples with the expectation of excellent internal marketing I come to expect from this quality city operator.
T1C is a legacy of the old TrawsCambria 701 when that ran Bangor-Cardiff, not sure when but it was split at Aberystwyth, & became T1C, but as mentioned the T1C is basically, Wales version of got to have a direct train to London.
thank you for another very interesting report.
The poor timetable publicity at Cardigan is even more ludicrous as there is a large electronic screen listing departures near the newsagents, which is in a place where it is not easy to spot, so I’m not surprised you didn’t see it. Another example of wasting money on something flashy and new rather than the basics of timetable posters on the stops. There is an even more helpful one at Fishguard which gives departures on the town service with the destination as Fishguard, as they are circular services, but not where they go in Goodwick.
Unfortunately the council are not about to build their transport hub in Haverfordwest. After demolishing the previous bus station they have discovered that the costs have doubled, so the project is on hold while they argue about what to do.
The usefulness of the T5 and T11 has been greatly reduced by economies since Covid. Both T5 south of Cardigan and T11 used to be hourly, each needing 4 buses, but now there are 3 on each, leading to an uneven service with two hour gaps. In the case of T5 this can’t have saved much, as a coach is now needed for pupils from Newport to Fishguard School which the service bus used to take. On T11 the Haverfordwest- St Davids section has always been much busier that St David’s to Fishguard, and it would be a much better use of resources to make that part hourly, with the Fishguard part two hourly as it used to be. North of Cardigan there are now two hour gaps in the morning.
The 10am used to run through from Haverfordwest and its withdrawal has made a day trip to Aberystwth now means an hours wait in Cardigan for the 11.02 as of course the bus from Fishguard that used to connect with this journey is one of the missing journeys on the southern section.
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