Cambrian Coast Chaos.

Status
Not open for further replies.

Grumpus63

Member
Joined
23 Jul 2021
Messages
77
Location
Powys
The Cambrian service (effectively Birmingham International to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli) is undoubtedly one of the scenic treasures of our railway network (especially west of Shrewsbury). Pre-Covid passenger numbers were rising nicely year by year and then came pestilence, storm and tempest, to put it biblically. Yet the trains still tried to run except when floods and other damage rendered this impossible. Then, just as Wales started to emerge from the latest lockdown, the Cambrian route was closed between Shrewsbury and Machynlleth for six weeks, mid-May to end of June 2021, to raise the level of a flood-prone bridge near Machynlleth. All of this was to try and make a better, more reliable service and was commendable. But since then it has been a July of chaos in my experience. Through services to and from Birmingham International are advertised as such but frequently end up terminating at Shrewsbury in both directions with passengers required to alight and hope for the best as regards the availability and reliability of onward services. In the past three weeks I have experienced delays of an hour or more, trains with heating stuck on despite the warm temperatures and the usual inaccurate information as to what half of the train goes where. Yet passengers seem incredibly stoical and the staff resilient. On 22 July, having travelled from London Euston on the 13.43 InterCity to Wolverhampton I had an hour to kill in that town which meant a pub and grub stop. I was able to follow the progress of the anticipated 16.06 from BHI to AYW and the preceeding journey it made from Holyhead to BHI. It progressively lost time on that earlier journey resulting in it being terminated short and turned at Birmingham New Street. When it arrived at Wolverhampton it was an odd combination of rolling stock headed by a class 153. This didn't bode well. Sure enough at Shrewsbury we had to alight because the train was being terminated there and "any onward passengers" were told that they faced a wait of at least 45 minutes. A similar thing happened on the previous Monday afternoon where another termination at Shrewsbury meant a "twenty minute delay" forecast. This ended up being one hour.

I fully understand that the Cambrian is operating with old-ish stock and that the single track with passing loops is bound to handicap the service at times of disruption. But this month has been astonishingly poor and I wasn't at all surprised to see passengers making the best of it by partying on board with copious bottles of stimulating refreshment and loud music being played!
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

30907

Veteran Member
Joined
30 Sep 2012
Messages
12,492
Location
Airedale
I was on the Coast at Talybont within sight of the line, 10-17 July.
As you mention, there were delays on the Monday due apparently to a bridge strike on the Cambrian - on the Coast these started at about 30min and reduced slightly by close of service. I presume they were more severe on the Cambrian itself?
The rest of the week trains seemed to be pretty much to time - again I didn't check what was happening at the Birmingham end.
Of course there were the usual class 158 aircon issues too when I travelled.
 

Grumpus63

Member
Joined
23 Jul 2021
Messages
77
Location
Powys
I was on the Coast at Talybont within sight of the line, 10-17 July.
As you mention, there were delays on the Monday due apparently to a bridge strike on the Cambrian - on the Coast these started at about 30min and reduced slightly by close of service. I presume they were more severe on the Cambrian itself?
The rest of the week trains seemed to be pretty much to time - again I didn't check what was happening at the Birmingham end.
Of course there were the usual class 158 aircon issues too when I travelled.
It seems to me that for operational reasons the Cambrian may be split into three or four sections so as to maintain a service on some chunks of the line when others are paralysed by severe delays. Last Monday, possibly, when the line was affected by the bridge strike I suspect that they may have got a train out of the sidings at Machynlleth and operated a "late but tolerable" service up the Cambrian Coast to Pwllheli. Passengers arriving on late-running connections from the east may have had buses laid on or not too long to wait for the next service.
 

Rab Smith

Member
Joined
7 Jul 2021
Messages
23
Location
Cardiff
I did a return from Welshpool to Aberystwyth. No real problems until on the return leg we had to wait for the late running Birmingham to Aberystwyth at the Talerddig crossing point. It delayed us by 20 minutes and got me thinking, does the unique signalling of the line make the crossing point fixed? It felt to me that the crossing could have been moved to Newtown which would have saved some delay on the Birmingham bound train.
In similar circumstances, a late running service from Inverness to Perth will be held at different crossing points to the scheduled ones to preserve the timetable of North running trains and vice versa because trains are still signalled by boxes along the line.
 

Grumpus63

Member
Joined
23 Jul 2021
Messages
77
Location
Powys
I did a return from Welshpool to Aberystwyth. No real problems until on the return leg we had to wait for the late running Birmingham to Aberystwyth at the Talerddig crossing point. It delayed us by 20 minutes and got me thinking, does the unique signalling of the line make the crossing point fixed? It felt to me that the crossing could have been moved to Newtown which would have saved some delay on the Birmingham bound train.
In similar circumstances, a late running service from Inverness to Perth will be held at different crossing points to the scheduled ones to preserve the timetable of North running trains and vice versa because trains are still signalled by boxes along the line.
I am no expert on this but I know that trains can cross at Newtown and there is an extended length of double track in the area west of Welshpool which I believe was necessary in order to facilitate a more frequent service (hourly instead of two hourly at certain times of the day on weekdays). But, yes, it seems that Talerddig is the usual passing loop because it is a 33-35 minute run between Mach and Newtown, a very long section of single track otherwise. It is curious that we still have mechanical signalling at Shrewsbury controlled by that magnificent signalbox outside the station but then branch off onto the Cambrian Line under the control of the ETCS system, the first line in the country to use this. I would imagine that they use every opportunity to minimise delay with the technology they have although, as has been proved, it is not without its limitations.
 

PHILIPE

Veteran Member
Joined
14 Nov 2011
Messages
13,472
Location
Caerphilly
A big problem that affects the performance is the number of "wrong" units working between Shrewsbury and Birmingham. As you all know no doubt, only 158s with ERTMS signalling equipment can operate over the route but often due the fact that the services interchange with Holyhead services in so much as they work Holyhead/Birmingham International/Cambrian/ Birmingham International/Holyhead and so on. This allows other types to get into the working either if there is a shortage of 158s or there is any disruption. 150s often turn up with a 158 from Birmingham International on the Aberystwyth or the Pwllheli portion which then has to be resolved at Shrewsbury often by changing the whole train over with the train in the opposite direction which conveniently both are in Shrewsbury at the same time, one in Platform 4 and the other just cross platform in 5, thus sending the 150 back to Birmingham.. Most inconvenient for passengers.
It may have been the same train that the OP saw but one ran from Birmingham to Shrewsbury this week formed with a 150 + 2 x 153s.
 

Grumpus63

Member
Joined
23 Jul 2021
Messages
77
Location
Powys
A big problem that affects the performance is the number of "wrong" units working between Shrewsbury and Birmingham. As you all know no doubt, only 158s with ERTMS signalling equipment can operate over the route but often due the fact that the services interchange with Holyhead services in so much as they work Holyhead/Birmingham International/Cambrian/ Birmingham International/Holyhead and so on. This allows other types to get into the working either if there is a shortage of 158s or there is any disruption. 150s often turn up with a 158 from Birmingham International on the Aberystwyth or the Pwllheli portion which then has to be resolved at Shrewsbury often by changing the whole train over with the train in the opposite direction which conveniently both are in Shrewsbury at the same time, one in Platform 4 and the other just cross platform in 5, thus sending the 150 back to Birmingham.. Most inconvenient for passengers.
It may have been the same train that the OP saw but one ran from Birmingham to Shrewsbury this week formed with a 150 + 2 x 153s.
Thanks for clarifying this.
 

Grumpus63

Member
Joined
23 Jul 2021
Messages
77
Location
Powys
Is there no longer a loop at Caersws/Moat Lane?
Well now, this required me to do a check on google maps satellite and also street view at the point where Moat Lane crosses the railway near Caersws but I could see no evidence of a crossing loop. I may, of course, be entirely mistaken.
 

Andy Pacer

Established Member
Joined
11 Jul 2017
Messages
1,621
Location
Leicestershire
A big problem that affects the performance is the number of "wrong" units working between Shrewsbury and Birmingham. As you all know no doubt, only 158s with ERTMS signalling equipment can operate over the route but often due the fact that the services interchange with Holyhead services in so much as they work Holyhead/Birmingham International/Cambrian/ Birmingham International/Holyhead and so on. This allows other types to get into the working either if there is a shortage of 158s or there is any disruption. 150s often turn up with a 158 from Birmingham International on the Aberystwyth or the Pwllheli portion which then has to be resolved at Shrewsbury often by changing the whole train over with the train in the opposite direction which conveniently both are in Shrewsbury at the same time, one in Platform 4 and the other just cross platform in 5, thus sending the 150 back to Birmingham.. Most inconvenient for passengers.
It may have been the same train that the OP saw but one ran from Birmingham to Shrewsbury this week formed with a 150 + 2 x 153s.
Had a similar situation this afternoon where 158824 + 153926 + 153303 arrived at Shrewsbury from Birmingham and went back the same way with the 2 x 158 from the Coast going back there.
I was quite happy to get a 153 for a change!
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Top