On Dec 15, 2017 the Bangor Aye published an article based on comments from Ceredigion County Council Cabinet member for transport, Councillor Alun Williams, regarding a pilot scheme that offers free weekend bus travel on the TrawsCymru network across Wales. Cllr Williams said the T2 service between Aberystwyth and Bangor had seen a 77% per cent increase in passengers,
What Cllr Williams failed to mention was that the T2 services do not connect anymore with the T1 in Aberystwyth. The T2 and T1 routes were designed as a North to South route (133 miles) linking Bangor with Carmarthen and in Carmarthen with trains going East to Cardiff. The T2/T1 route still has an outstanding key action to improve reliability and journey times on this strategic route, (recorded in the published Welsh Government Transport Strategy document) . The reason that the T2 no longer connects with the T1 in Aberystwyth is because the 15 minute connection time in Aberystwyth between the T2 and T1 was transferred to Dolgellau when the T3 (a 58 mile long non strategic service between Wrexham and Barmouth) was introduced in 2014.
Before the T3 service was introduced the Welsh Government had commissioned an independent review of the Trawscymru network by the Bevan Foundation, which recommended that the T3 should run from Wrexham to Aberystwyth rather than Barmouth . This recommendation would have resulted in no disruption to the strategic T2/T1 Bangor to Carmarthen service. The T3 would have then become a strategic service between Wrexham and Aberystwyth (with links to the T1 to Carmarthen and
T5 to Cardigan) , and possibly with links at Newtown in Mid Wales with the T4 to Cardiff. The Welsh Government ignored their own Transport Strategy document and the independent Bevan Foundation review and introduced the T3 from Wrexham to Barmouth with catastrophic results on the T2/T1 Bangor to Carmarthen services. For example, because of the 15 minute delays in Dolgellau to wait for the T3 from Wrexham the last T2 service of the day arrived in Aberystwyth at 18.40 and the T1 to Carmarthen departed at 18.40, with only 50% of services connecting.
Passengers who decided that this connection was too risky had the option of catching the train in Bangor to go to Carmarthen and could follow a circuit route across North Wales to Crewe in Cheshire , down to South wales and on to Carmarthen. This train route takes up to 7 ½ hours (could be longer than the bus) and costs £90.60 one way. Since the introduction of the T3 service , journey times on the T2/T1 route have increased by between 1 and 2 hours and the Welsh Government have ignored their own published Transport Strategy to improve T2/T1 journey times.
On 17th November 2017 the Cabinet Secretary responsible for Transport, Ken Skates, wrote to Councillor Alun Williams saying he would commission a “high level” review into the Bevan Foundation recommendation to route the T3 from Wrexham to Aberystwyth. Councillor Alun Williams has confirmed that this “high level” review has not been actioned . Not only was the review not actioned, but also 2 months later , on Jan 15, 2018, the Welsh Government ignored the promised “high level” review and introduced further changes to the T2 service to improve connections with the T3 from Wrexham to Barmouth, 4 of which were catastrophic to connections in Aberystwyth.
It is worth noting that 70% of the T3 route from Wrexham to Dolgellau (48 miles) is through Ken Skates AM constituency of South Clwyd and the 15 minute delays to the T2 in Dolgellau are solely for the benefit of the constituents of Ken Skates. The ability of passengers along the 133 mile corridor between Bangor and Carmarthen to use the T2/T1 service is being denied for the benefit of the constituents of Ken Skates.
Dr John McTighe
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