Wales: Trunk Services
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Since the advent of the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay, there seems to have been a willingness to plug gaps in the Welsh railway network through the development of a network of interurban services under the TrawsCymru brand. The routes are not operated with coaches as in other places but with low floor buses. Though growing in number, these are not the only trunk services, so others are to be found here too. Hopefully, more will join them.
5/5C/5D/X5: Llandudno - Bangor - Caernarfon
On Sundays, the service frequency may be hourly, but it is impressively more regular for this North Wales coastal bus service. Apart from the Bangor-Caernarfon leg, it shadows the railway for much of its route too. Saying that, you have more of a chance of getting a regular service from places like Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr if you make use of the bus option. For some reason, I have yet to do exactly that, and I cannot pin down exactly why. In my case, it has been travelling between Bangor and Caernarfon that has been the cause of my using it in the past.
12/X12: Rhyl - Abergele - Old Colwyn - Colwyn Bay - Penrhyn Bay - Llandudno
Recent experiences of overcrowding on trains running in North Wales have had me wondering about alternatives, and this service could be part of that. The Sunday frequency is half-hourly, but this increases to five buses an hour for much of the day on other days of the week. In short, this is a frequent service and has a total journey time of less than ninety minutes.
19: Llandudno - Llanrwst - Betws-y-Coed
The lower Conwy Valley may not strike you as a place from which to enter open hill country, but you’d be very wrong. Places like Dolgarrog and Tal-y-Bont are useful starting points for hikes towards the Carneddau and other hills, once you haul yourself up the steep wooded slopes for the first 200 metres or so of height. Being able to catch these buses from Llandudno Junction station means that train travellers can use them too. All that’s needed is to keep an eye on timetables for any eccentricities.
T2: Aberystwyth - Dolgellau - Porthmadog - Bangor
This is the replacement for the erstwhile X32 that once was operated exclusively by Arriva. The Monday to Saturday frequency is down from what it was but the Sunday and bank holiday service offering remains largely as it was before though. This is another part of the TrawsCymru network that has yet to reach its full potential, though vehicles were well-used when I last tried it.
T3: Wrexham - Bala - Dolgellau - Barmouth
Now replicating a journey that was once possible by rail, this useful bus route is one that I have travelled quite a few times. Once, it was numbered X94 and has been in the hands of several operators of the years. After Arriva closed its Dolgellau depot, the route fell to GHA until its collapse and Lloyds Coaches are now involved in its operation.
One year during the Arriva days, the Monday to Saturday service frequency became hourly. However, demand appears not to have matched this since it was reduced. Consequently, you need to keep an eye on the timetable nowadays. That especially applies to the Sunday service since there are five each way journeys a day. For all its travails, this TrawsCymru route remains, and it serves places that otherwise would be disconnected.
That the countryside appeals to walkers adds to the appeal of the area and Barmouth is a seaside resort too. That would explain how I travelled on a full bus from Wrexham to Dolgellau where a throng awaited an already busy bus on what was a hot sunny day. Many may have been escaping scorching inland temperatures, by the looks of things.
T4: Newtown - Llandrindod Wells - Brecon - Merthyr Tydfil - Cardiff
This started out in life as the 704 between Newtown and Brecon but the T4 replaced it and extended the route south as far as Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff to replace the now withdrawn 470. The frequency of the Monday to Saturday service is somewhere between hourly and two-hourly depending on the time of day and where you need to go. The Sunday service is even less frequent with the southern terminus being Merthyr Tydfil instead of Cardiff. Nevertheless, the timings are useful and Stagecoach appears to have done a good job on a seemingly unpromising TrawsCymru route.
T5: Aberystwyth - Aberaeron - New Quay - Cardigan - Fishguard - Haverfordwest
This route recalls a journey I undertook on the way back from Pembrokeshire after an elongated weekend there in June 2006. Then, you needed to use two bus services with the 412 running between Haverfordwest and Cardigan. The T5 replaces this and offers Sunday journeys during the summer season alongside its year-round Monday to Saturday hourly services. This addition to the Trawscymru network in 2014 gets folk to parts of coastal Pembrokeshire, thus earning its place here.
T6: Brecon - Sennybridge - Ystradgynlais - Neath - Swansea
This is a newer part of the TrawsCymru network that replaces the preceding X63 and X64, and it operates seven days a week too, not a feature of what came before it. It also serves the western reaches of the Brecon Beacons National Park and there are early evening journeys allow days of decent length around the Fforest Fawr. The Sunday service level offers at least five each way journeys and the frequency is nearly hourly on other days of the week too.
T10: Bangor - Bethesda - Betws-y-Coed - Corwen
Usefully for a bus service that gets you to the Ogwen Valley, this route has Bangor’s train station as one of its termini, so you can use it for onward travel. There are other connections with bus routes T3 and T8 at Corwen, which make it even more useful. Seven-day service is available even if the Sunday frequency is four-hourly over the part of the route between Betws-y-Coed and Corwen. Otherwise, the service frequency is next to two-hourly, and that applies to the whole route from Monday to Saturday.
X4: Cardiff - Pontypridd - Merthyr Tydfil - Brynmawr - Abergavenny - Hereford
Between Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff, this combines with the T4 to offer a more frequent service from Monday to Saturday with up to four bus journeys each way per hour. The full route sees a lesser service with six journeys in each direction a day and the section between Abergavenny and Brynmawr gets an hourly service while Brynmawr to Cardiff gets a half-hourly one. With all the differential frequencies, you would wonder how the route is managed, but Stagecoach must make a go of it, or it wouldn’t be operating it otherwise. There is, however, no Sunday or bank holiday service as I can see.
X43: Abergavenny - Brecon
The old X43 that linked Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil and Brecon seven days a week with extensions to Abergavenny on every day apart from Sunday is no more. The new shortened X43 is operated by Stagecoach under the Trawscymru Connect brand of the Welsh Assembly Government. Service frequencies aren’t shoddy either though it’s only a Monday to Saturday service now.
X47: Aberystwyth - Ponterwyd - Llangurig - Rhayader - Llandrindod Wells
Rhayader’s proximity to the man-altered Elan Valley was what first drew my attention to the place and, given my liking for wilder spots, that may appear strange but some of mankind’s constructions can blend with the landscape. Its proximity to Llandrindod Wells on the Cambrian railway line makes a visit possible with the help of this bus service. Like many in the area, it is a Monday to Saturday affair and offers a largely two-hourly timetable from early morning until early evening.
X51: Wrexham - Coedpoeth - Llandegla - Ruthin - Denbigh
This service gives a decent travel option for anyone wishing to get around northeast Wales. Frequencies on Sundays and bank holidays may be much less than those on other days of the week, but they remain useful with a largely hourly daytime service. What interests me about the route is the access that they could offer to quality walking country. For instance, Llandegla is on the Offa’s Dyke Path national trail and I would like to walk north from there into the Clwydian Range sometime.