When One’s a Crowd…

Have you travelled on the train from Swansea to Tenby? I use the word “train” loosely, since, from my experience, it consists of just one piece of rolling stock – a single locomotive/carriage.

That may be sufficient at some times, but it means the potential for serious overcrowding at busy times.

Like on a recent Friday afternoon when it was definitely standing room only. I had a pre-booked, numbered seat, but there was no prospect of my physically getting to it. It had been a major achievement just to get onto the “train” and grab a seat at all when the single doors at either end were opened and passengers fought their way on, all with the same calculation in their head: that there were not going to be enough seats for everybody.

Things had not been helped by the fact this was a major festival weekend in Tenby – plus a stag party and a hen party were both bound in that direction too.

The stag party members mostly ended up having to stand. Which seemed to make it easier for them to down as many cans of beer as they could. And the nearer we got to Tenby, the ear-bashingly louder they became. (“They’ll be in bed by 7pm,” observed a sober local.)

And the hens managed to make their presence felt, particularly when they suddenly realised, after we’d been at Saundersfoot station for a while, that this was where they were supposed to get off. Disembarking from a capacity-full “train” (more like a bus on rails) in a hurry before it pulls out is not easily done. There was much screeching and screaming and threats to pull the emergency handle before the ladies made their undignified exit.

At least without the hens there was a little more breathing space. Apart from an unpleasantly crowded journey I once made from Delhi to Varanasi, I have never been so relieved to get off a train as I was when we spilled out the door at Tenby.

Would it be too much to ask for two carriages on a Friday train from Swansea?

A Transport for Wales spokesperson said: “We apologise for overcrowding on some of our west Wales services in recent weeks and in particular to Tenby on Friday 8th November 2019. We’re currently using all our available rolling stock every weekday, and this is allocated to services based on our passenger numbers in order to meet demand as best we can.

“We know that our customers deserve a better service, which is why we’re working hard to introduce any additional capacity available.

“A number of trains are currently out of service for repair or refurbishment, as part of our £40 million investment to ensure our existing fleet is reliable and meets accessibility requirements.

“This will be just the start of our plans to upgrade our train fleet, as we embark on an £800 million investment programme in brand new rolling stock.”

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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