Tenby residents have raised concerns over Great Western Railway’s new train timetable, stating that significant changes to the railway services will affect passengers as they will be forced to endure lengthy waits of up to an hour at Swansea station for a connecting train to London.
Following the completion of the electrification from London to Cardiff, First Great Western Trains have speeded up their services and changed the departure times from Swansea.
The timetable which starts on December 16 will see the biggest timetable change on the Great Western network since 1976.
Currently passengers who use the Pembroke Dock line only have a seven-minute wait at Swansea for the connection to London.
However, once the new timetable kicks in, London services will now depart Swansea a few minutes before the Transport for Wales train from Pembroke Dock arrives, resulting in a delay of nearly one hour for passengers from South Pembrokeshire.
One concerned local resident, who did not want to be named, regularly gets the train from Tenby to Dorking in Surrey.
She said that she was annoyed about having to wait an hour at Swansea and felt it was the responsibility of Transport for Wales to fit in with Great Western Railway’s new timetable.
“It makes it harder for elderly people,” she said.
“People have to change trains at Cardiff, but that makes it more difficult for elderly people who have large items of luggage as they will have to cross platforms.”
The Observer has seen correspondence from Ken Skates AM, the Welsh Minister for Economy and Transport, in response to local AM Helen Mary, who has raised concerns on behalf of local constituents.
“I fully appreciate their frustrations,” remarked Mr. Skates.
“This year sees the biggest change to the Great Western Railway timetable since the 1970s and consequently, Transport for Wales have been unable to amend all of their services to ensure efficient connections with the newly timed Great Western services in time for December.
“They have however since set up a workshop to discuss timetabling from May 2020 and I have been assured that they will continue to explore these concerns to attempt to find a workable solution, if possible.
“Timetables are constantly under review, and any changes will be announced publicly.”
Neil Westerman, another Tenby resident, has called Mr. Skates’ reply ‘completely unacceptable’.
“It may surprise readers to learn that the Tenby and Pembroke Dock line is actually the busiest line in terms of passenger numbers in Pembrokeshire,” he said.
“During the summer, the line was so busy and the trains so full that Transport for Wales were forced to run numerous additional bus services to supplement the trains from Carmarthen to meet the demand.
“It appears to me that their failure to amend train times to ensure connectivity at Swansea may have an ulterior motive. Are they trying to drive passengers off the trains so they do not have to invest in new improved services on the Pembroke Dock line?
“Transport for Wales is planning to invest 1.9 billion pounds over the next 15 years. The majority of this investment is going into the Cardiff Valley lines services that are to be electrified and operated with a train service every 15 minutes.
“The only planned service improvement for south Pembrokeshire is one additional Sunday service.
“As the Tenby and Pembroke Dock line is the busiest line in Pembrokeshire it should logically receive the best service in Pembrokeshire.
“This is clearly not the case, with much better train services and connections being provided to Haverfordwest.
“What is needed on the Tenby line is an hourly service frequency with earlier and later trains that actually connect into inter city services at Swansea. Is this too much to ask?” added Mr. Westerman.
A spokesman for Great Western Railway said: “We do liaise with other train operators when putting the timetable together and Network Rail will also look at the overall bids from operators, and as much as possible we will try to spread services.
“In this example, we have to slot our South Wales service into and out of a very tight window at Paddington and this does mean we are providing a long-distance service very close to the local service.
“This is something we will continue to discuss with Transport for Wales in future timetables.”
A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “Transport for Wales will try and retime the West Wales timetable to restore the connection in the May 2020 timetable change, but this can’t be guaranteed.”
Transport for Wales have been approached for a comment, but as we went to press no response had been received.