Overcrowding on North Wales Coast When The Sun Shines This Summer

Llandudno

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Given the scenic nature of the North Wales Coast and the obvious demand for travel when the summer comes around, it’s a pity there isn’t an enterprising charter operator able to provide some extra capacity. I know practicalities make this difficult but if Open Access actually worked as intended (without having to leach revenue via ORCATS raiding to break even) then this is the sort of situation it should be suited to.
Indeed, an HST/loco hauled set operating as follows:

Sat/Mon/Wed/Fri Manchester to Llandudno and return
Sun/Tue/Thu Liverpool Lime Street to Llandudno and return

Day and Period returns offered

Perhaps whilst the set is in Llandudno it could operate a short day return to ideally Blaenau Ffestiniog or if not, Holyhead
 
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craigybagel

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Whilst not an ideal situation, I'm struggling to think of what other alternatives there are available. There is a massive backlog of training required thanks both to Covid slowing training down and the late arrival of new stock meaning what little training has been able to take place on new stock has started late.

It's alright saying there should be more services or longer services - but there isn't the stock available for the latter until training takes place, and whilst that's happening that means there's no staff for the former.

The training department are working flat out, both to train existing staff on new stock and train new staff from scratch and frankly it's been a miracle that even the current level of service has been maintained.

As others have alluded to, it is hoped that there will be improvements over the summer, but surely it's best to not promise such things in a timetable until it's confirmed that they really can take place?
 

47827

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With the sorry situation of the last 13/14 months I can somewhat sympathise with the railway operators here, although if its true the destinations that were even more popular in BR days are becoming the same choice again by circumstances then the only thing that can be done is plotting how to best use the small amount of spare stock to operate what can be resourced. Without seeing a full fleet list and all the associated constraints I can't launch a full critique. Longer would be great and indeed reliefs or extras would be great. Sadly the answers all lie collecting dust in the 1980s BR book of magic solutions and the sidings full of spare Mk1 and mk2 pv stock are long since gone, on an odd private railway or not easily usable with one of the few mainline heritage stock owners.

Take my journey last Sunday to Llandudno for a day out to see my mum. It was a Bank Holiday weekend and the line was shut completely East of Llandudno Junction. There was a 2 car 153 shuttle into the town that appeared to be running, some Ffestiniog services advertised and a somewhat sporadic shuttle service to Holyhead. My mum was travelling from Eastern Anglesey and wanted a train about 11am ex Bangor but the normal timetable was binned. With 07xx and 08xx departures from Holyhead and a fully crewed ECS passing through Bangor just before her normal 11am travel time but no more passenger departures until the afternoon. Instead she landed on one of 3 Avanti vice voyager replacement buses leaving Bangor at 1115 and timed for a horse n cart almost (hers was 25 early into the Junction). I collected her at the Junction as connections generally aren't held that long these days if you arrive late and we were almost passing the station off the A55 anyhow so it made sense.

Coming from Stoke it was a Sunday so you would have to travel via Manchester even if there was a full service but with engineering works that would have probably resulted in a mid afternoon arrival. Even if we could roll back to BR days and it was a Monday to Saturday with a timetable matching the late 80s or early 90s with a direct train from here (and the station was actually no hassle to get to, which it is) the journey would still have involved an earlier start, a longer journey and at current fares several times the cost for the return trip. With a hybrid car currently averaging at about £18 round trip for all of us and the journey working and about 1 3/4 hours each way. Alas in reality even going on a normal service day pre covid with the hassle changing trains, potentially busy services with inferior rolling stock potential in places and whopping costs plus longer journey times I doubt the car would ever be swapped for the train even if the A55 on busy days is full of people who aren't used to driving outside the school run and the amount of near misses on one round trip is a little high for comfort. If the Ferry traffic increased to normal levels it'd be worse still!

Heaven help the railway if we had cheap fares and an old school BR style service to these resorts. With covid hang over everything would suddenly be full and standing.

Feel for the planners right now with too many ropes tying their hands and solutions mostly out of reach. There's enough mk4s in traffic to ease the situation a little over the summer but as Craig points out the training process is harder and slower than in the past as covid rules just get in the way of most processes now rightly or wrongly.
 

Bikeman78

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According to the new PDF timetables on the TfW website a covid reduced timetable will still be operating this summer (May-Sept) on the north Wales Coast line.

There are some large gaps in the timetable, which could well lead to severe overcrowding on certain trains, unless trains of 6+ coaches are operated, which knowing TfW will be highly unlikely.

Potential pinch points are:

Eastbound back towards Chester and beyond
No train from Colwyn Bay, Abergele, Rhyl & Prestatyn for 2 hours between 1645 and 1845 Mondays to Fridays

The Saturday service between Chester and Llandudno Junction is more or less hourly all day, this could well be an issue with all the caravaners at Abergele, Rhyl and Prestatyn. On normal half hourly summer Saturdays many trains have standing loads, how will they cope with 50% service reductions and more staycation holidaymakers and day trippers.

I think it might take my chances on the A55, or more likely the back roads!
I think you are right. The trains were full and standing from end to end last summer. From what I've heard, most trains will be three or four cars west of Chester.
 

krus_aragon

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Instead she landed on one of 3 Avanti vice voyager replacement buses leaving Bangor at 1115 and timed for a horse n cart almost (hers was 25 early into the Junction).
There are some long-term roadworks on the A55 eastbound: 40mph from Bangor to Abergwyngregyn. This may have caused the bus planners to be overcautious.
 

47827

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From what I could see in the schedule it was only bits like Rhyl to Prestatyn that the schedule wasn't overly generous. I've seen far less slack schedules in the past. Perhaps it's in case large volumes of passengers were to turn up so as to allow more controlled boarding and alighting due to current covid concerns. I think one of the schedules I looked at was 3 hours 25 minutes Holyhead to Chester serving just the normal sort of voyager calls. Unless you are only travelling a short way that would be very off putting considering it was then another poor connection into another replacement bus to Crewe, taking an hour. Leaving Holyhead at 1030 you hit Crewe at 1535 then would have to find wait for the next train to London. Although think the WCML into London was actually shut so another detour or bus would be required further south.
 
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Llandudno

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From what I could see in the schedule it was only bits like Rhyl to Prestatyn that the schedule wasn't overly generous. I've seen far less slack schedules in the past. Perhaps it's in case large volumes of passengers were to turn up so as to allow more controlled boarding and alighting due to current covid concerns. I think one of the schedules I looked at was 3 hours 25 minutes Holyhead to Chester serving just the normal sort of voyager calls. Unless you are only travelling a short way that would be very off putting considering it was then another poor connection into another replacement bus to Crewe, taking an hour. Leaving Holyhead at 1030 you hit Crewe at 1535 then would have to find wait for the next train to London. Although think the WCML into London was actually shut so another detour or bus would be required further south.
I suspect they make the RRB times as off putting as possible to deter pesky passengers from using them...
 

peters

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The thing we don't know is how many people will use trains for leisure trips this summer. It seems at present coach operators are operating services with some seats out of use, so for anyone with COVID related concerns going away using the coach will be a more attractive option than a train which will accept any number of passengers who can fit on.

The gaps in service on the North Wales coast would result in more overcrowding as two train loads try to board one service but it could also result in fewer passengers as people won't be keen on the idea of waiting 2 hours if they just miss a service.
 

Watershed

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I suspect they make the RRB times as off putting as possible to deter pesky passengers from using them...
Very small changes (e.g. making connections work or break) can make a big difference to the attractiveness of RRBs, yes, but if you're suggesting that the journey times themselves are artificially 'padded', I don't think that's the case.
 

Bikeman78

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The thing we don't know is how many people will use trains for leisure trips this summer. It seems at present coach operators are operating services with some seats out of use, so for anyone with COVID related concerns going away using the coach will be a more attractive option than a train which will accept any number of passengers who can fit on.

The gaps in service on the North Wales coast would result in more overcrowding as two train loads try to board one service but it could also result in fewer passengers as people won't be keen on the idea of waiting 2 hours if they just miss a service.
I think you are being optimistic if you think the trains won't be crowded. People were happy to pile on last summer, without any sign of a vaccine. If anything, I'd expect people to be more confident this year.
 

peters

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I think you are being optimistic if you think the trains won't be crowded. People were happy to pile on last summer, without any sign of a vaccine. If anything, I'd expect people to be more confident this year.

There's different ways of looking at it.

  • More confidence may mean fewer trips to North Wales, as people are less apprehensive about travelling further afield.
  • It could be the case that some of the people who piled on last year had never been to North Wales by train before and last year's overcrowding will put them off making the same journey by train again.
  • If many B&Bs and holiday parks are already fully booked up then the loadings may not be affected much by the weather as the option of someone booking a spontaneous trip after seeing a good weather forecast won't be possible.
 

Philip

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I have noticed that a large number of TfW Manchester to Chester services are formed of only 2-car 175s, whereas previously the majority were 3-car sets. This looks an easy way to improve things a bit by switching these back to 3-car sets?

If TfW want to keep most Manchester to South Wales services as 3-car units, then surely the 3-car 175s currently working Holyhead-Shrewsbury services would be better used on Manchester-Chester, and vice versa with 2-car sets for Holyhead to Shrewsbury?
 

PHILIPE

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I have noticed that a large number of TfW Manchester to Chester services are formed of only 2-car 175s, whereas previously the majority were 3-car sets. This looks an easy way to improve things a bit by switching these back to 3-car sets?

If TfW want to keep most Manchester to South Wales services as 3-car units, then surely the 3-car 175s currently working Holyhead-Shrewsbury services would be better used on Manchester-Chester, and vice versa with 2-car sets for Holyhead to Shrewsbury?

The thread is basically about capacity along the North Wales Coast and yet you are suggesting a reduction from 3 to 2 cars along the route
 

Llandudno

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I think you are being optimistic if you think the trains won't be crowded. People were happy to pile on last summer, without any sign of a vaccine. If anything, I'd expect people to be more confident this year.
They will be much busier than last summer as most restrictions due to be lifted from the end of June.
Sports fixtures will also allow spectators including Chester Races...
 

peters

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The thread is basically about capacity along the North Wales Coast and yet you are suggesting a reduction from 3 to 2 cars along the route

To me it reads like they are saying normally North Wales Coast would have 3 car sets but TfW seem to have reallocated those so they are on South Wales services leaving 2 cars for the North Wales services.
 

Philip

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The thread is basically about capacity along the North Wales Coast and yet you are suggesting a reduction from 3 to 2 cars along the route

Manchester to Chester is a busier route than Holyhead to Shrewsbury, so any 3-car units allocated to the latter should be being used for Manchester to Chester. Also, Manchester to Chester will probably be back to Manchester to North Wales by December, if not earlier.
 

craigybagel

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I have noticed that a large number of TfW Manchester to Chester services are formed of only 2-car 175s, whereas previously the majority were 3-car sets. This looks an easy way to improve things a bit by switching these back to 3-car sets?

If TfW want to keep most Manchester to South Wales services as 3-car units, then surely the 3-car 175s currently working Holyhead-Shrewsbury services would be better used on Manchester-Chester, and vice versa with 2-car sets for Holyhead to Shrewsbury?
As always with TfW, until the new stock enters service all you can do is rob Peter to pay Paul
 

krus_aragon

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There is (or was) a sign on the up platform at Colwyn Bay: 'are you stopping at Abergele?'
That's nothing new, and dates from ATW days. It's there because Abergele is only served by some trains, and the sign is intended to make drivers think in advance, and avoid missing a station call. At the time, there was no need for a sign in the other direction because they'd be signalled into the westbound passenger loop, but of course that's recently been taken out. I don't know if TfW have felt the need to provide a sign at the Rhyl end since.

Another station with similar signs on approach is Trefforest Estate, which only sees a few trains booked to call.
 

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