Wednesday 27 September 2017

Critical Cymric Contrasts (2)

Integration Consternation
fbb does not like to engage in an on-line debate with folk who are kind enough to offer their support (or otherwise!!) via comments added to this blog. But thoughts from "Stuart" suggest that a closer look at "integration" in the Borough of Conwy might be of interest.

The Thrill of Rhyl
Not only is the bus station just outside he railway station ...
... but there are direction signs in the station, along with a rack of bus timetables. I think you can also buy a combined rail-bus ticket. So integration in the area between Arriva Rail and buses is not perhaps as bad as you make-out.

This is indeed good news. Assuming the "rack of timetables" is kept fully stocked and includes ALL operators, it is a good start ...

BUT ... What is available at the station for any on-line enquirer, perhaps travelling thither for the first time?
The station plan shows the taxi rank and a car drop-off pick-up point but doesn't even mention the bus station. A click on the usual "station maps" button ...
... produces a decidedly unhelpful response.
This "Oh No" appears at all the stations fbb has explored in North Wales.

Then there is the bus-rail ticket clearly listed in the "tickets" section of the "Rhyl" page.

fbb simply could not find it at first and had to resort to entering "Rhyl bus rail ticket" into the ever helpful Google search engine. (Other search engines are available!?!)
The One Arriva Ticket will be introduced from 21st May 2017, giving you endless destination possibilities with fantastic savings. Simply buy your One Arriva ticket from your train conductor or from the ticket office at Rhyl Station for unlimited bus travel on any bus travelling from, to or through Rhyl.

It offers a "Day Rover" for four quid. Wowsers!
But, effectively, you cannot buy it on-line or at any station other than Rhyl itself. But why spend £4 for Arriva only buses when for a modest £2.50 you can use PlusBus?
PlusBus tells me that the interchange is on Bodfor Street. It isn't.
Maybe it was once?

Ticket validity may well be different, but for local travel in and around Rhyl, £2.50 would seem to offer better value.
Plus Bus maps have always been useless, but this one does at least show that your ticket is for more than just a trundle round the town.

Is there any mention of Plus Bus on the Arriva Rhyl bus site or Arriva Trains Wales? A search on the rail site delivers this ...

Plus Bus
Bus Links
The following Bus Links are available at connecting stations on the Arriva Trains Wales network. Tickets for the bus can be purchased when buying your rail ticket. Tickets are available to purchase on train and at booking offices.  
Pages: 1

... and nothing else. On the bus web site you can read nothing under "Rhyl" but using the search box you do get a "national" Arriva page ...
... listing all their PlusBus areas throughout England and Wales. But its existence is not at all obvious.

And how far will your "One Arriva" £4 take you?

"unlimited bus travel on any bus travelling from, to or through Rhyl"

Service 11 (etc) runs from Rhyl to Holywell with connections (i.e. through buses) onwards via (erm?) service 11 to Chester.
£4 Rhyl to Chester return seem jolly good value. Has anyone tried using it?

"Stuart" is quite right. Things are better at Rhyl than at Llandudno Junction but it is all very haphazard and unhelpful to the casual user who will not be bothered to spend time trawling through multiple web sites and search boxes.

Integration is not about filling a rack of timetables and putting up a sign to guide the passenger from bus to rail; it is about making the through journey seamless and straightforward. It isn't at Rhyl - it could be, but there is a lack of real commitment.

By this measure, Rhyl is poor but Llandudno Junction is awful and, as we will see later, Bangor is just a disgrace!

Secret Service 5
but then most people on the train from the Bangor direction wishing to go to Llandudno would change at the Junction anyway, from which there is almost a half-hourly train service to Deganwy and Llandudno on a weekday, so there would be little point in routeing the 5s via the station stop. However, on an evening and on a winter Sunday [when there is no rail service to Llandudno], the 5s are routed via the station stop at Llandudno Junction.

True, sir. People wishing to travel to Deganwy or central Llandudno will probably use the train.
But what about people to/from Craig-y-don, Llanrhos and the hinterland of Llandudno Junction (locality)? To encourage travel by train, these folk should EXPECT the 5 (and even the X5 to/from the Hospital) to pop into "Platform 5" up the Junction. What about a person travelling from parts of Conwy, Llanfairfechan or Penmaenmawr who prefer a bus ride to a walk to the train?  There are oodles of reasons for using the bus to Llandudno Junction, if only it served the station.

Outside evenings and peaks, there is an uninviting  choice for such hardly travellers.

Alight from service 5 at Victoria Drive ...
... walk to the "main road" ...
... turn left as this X1 is doing ...
... and it is not too far to the station. So close, in fact, that there seems little reason for the 5s NOT to pull in there.

Or you could join the X5 and use the stops on the Conway Road bridge.
From here it is down the steps ...
... and/or through an unwelcoming tunnel. Then along a rather seedy road past closed shops ...
... and through another unwelcoming tunnel. This leads to a more pleasant bit of the "old" road ...
... and round the corner to the station.

Not a good advert for bus/rail integration and very much not a encouragement for passengers to become integrated!

There is no onward travel map for Llandudno Junction, so no easy way of discovering this unattractive link.

If fbb were Mr Ariva, he would be seeking any and every way to earn a bit more dosh. He might also provide his customers with a more usable station map.
Taxis are shown, but no buses; not even "Platform 5".
The "retail area" is the Netto store ...
... which you get to by passing the secret Platform 5 bus stop. It is true, of course, that Conwy's superb book uses the Platform 5 name in its timetables ...
... but does not mention it on its normally excellent map. The road called FF.6G, leading to Tesco, is intriguing; but the street name at one end does suggest ...
... (despite Streetview's mission to hide the truth with a bit of fuzz) that its name is "6G Road" (Fford being Welsh for Road). Weird.

Perhaps someone should tell Mr Arriva that Conwy Road does not run past the station entrance. The map should show the approach road.
Interestingly nothing much has changed since 1897!
Maybe the end house no longer offers refreshments?

There might be some limited mitigation, however. Just outside the station footbridge, as over-enlarged from Google Streetview, are three poster panels headed Public Transport Information.
One of the panels contains some timetables. Can anyone tell fbb if they are still there and which timetables are displayed?

Tomorrow we move into the purview of a different local authority which always used to be good with buses.

 Next Gwynedd bus blog : Wednesday 28th September 


  1. Just being boring but when we were there last weekend the retail area appeared to be Asda and Iceland stores. I could post a picture of the sugar free dandelion and burdock pop that I bought. It is own label Asda.

  2. Surely the issue is that Arriva buses and trains, despite being part of the same group (and using the same paint) in fact work as distinct and separate companies?

  3. I should have checked! That's the trouble with relying on the internet. Thanks muchly Anon! Love the idea of Dandelion and Birdsmuck fizz (as we used to call it) but shudder at the thought of all those unnatural substances to make it "sugar free" (!!)

  4. Indeed Andrew. But they SHOULD work together. It is in the passengers' interest and the shareholders' to maximise use and revenue. The various separate bits of the Google empire come together on my mobile phone.

  5. Very few people in the rail industry regard themselves as being part of the XX Group. They regard themselves as being in "the" rail industry and who can blame them, as most have retained their jobs, while being "TUPE'd" from one owning group to another at regular intervals, as franchises change.

    The railway companies also tend to have a much bigger bureaucracy than bus operators and finding the right person to contact who actually has the power to change something is close to being a miracle in itself. My small successes have often been more by luck than judgement!

  6. Please allow me to respond to some of the points you make:-

    1] The confusion over the siting of the interchange in Rhyl seems to be due to a discrepancy in the online maps. Google maps show the junction of Bodfor St/Elwy St to be Kinmel St, hence there is no interchange on Bodfor St. Bing maps, however, show Bodfor St extending over Kinmel St and back to the railway station. According to them, the interchange is on Bodfor St. Indeed, the National Rail website gives Bodfor St as the address of the station. Hey ho!

    2] The Arriva "One" ticket is intended to serve a different market from the PlusBus ticket, as it extends far beyond the immediate vicinity of Rhyl to Llandudno, Holywell and Denbigh. Whether it may extend to Chester and Wrexham too is an interesting point, but, regardless of this, it is excellent value at £4.

    3] I agree that the route 5 buses should serve Llandudno Junction station during the day. Whilst not defending Arriva Bus Wales, I can only think that daytime timings preclude this. Observations at the terminus in Llandudno Gloddaeth St show timings are tight, especially when traffic is heavy, as can happen in summer months.

    4] 6G Road in Llandudno Junction is a comparatively new road, linking with the A55 dual carriageway, through the area which was once occupied by the motive power depot classed "6G" - therefore a fitting tribute to an industry which has now gone.

    I await tomorrow's blog re the situation in Gwynedd!!

  7. Aren't the station maps all to a common standard for National Rail, made just for its and the operating standards? I think they are correct in not including info not in their control, that may soon be out of date. making info out of date is well practiced by the bus industry.

  8. Many station diagrams are out of date. The Local Area Maps (now missing) are often appallingly out of date and usually a waste of poster space.

    But there is no reason why they should be. One of the big advantages of modern print methods is that it is a doddle to produce accurate material and keep it up to date.

    But the will is not there. Too much trouble. Easier to ignore.

    Stop making excuses bus and rail industry and get your act together.