Transport User Voice – August 2022 – Fflecsi travel and a success on SailRail
21 July 2022
What’s happening in Wales
Building on our interim report on fflecsi published earlier in 2022, we carried out a second phase looking at an expanded fflecsi operation in Newport. Transport Focus Wales has been working with Transport for Wales to assess the experience of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) pilots launched under the fflecsi brand.
The research points towards a valuable role for DRT as a part of the overall transport mix. As well as being well-suited to serve rural communities, it also has a role to play in metropolitan areas. Once the flexible concept is understood, it is seen as an attractive option both by bus users and potential converts who might be open to switching from a car. However promotion and education remain key if the concept is to be fully appreciated.
Our updated findings showed greater awareness of the service after Covid restrictions were lifted. Having fflecsi running until 11pm and on Sundays was much appreciated as scheduled services in Newport were finishing at 6pm and not running on Sundays. The ability to make cross-city journeys on a single bus without going into the city centre is valued and also appeals to some passengers who are reluctant to use scheduled services.
Using an app to book a ride is seen as innovative and modern, but some are confused when a service bus is suggested with some only accepting a fflecsi option. Flexibility is appreciated but can lead to some concerns about reliability and getting to the destination on time. Vehicles are well liked (including by those with mobility impairments) but it is the drivers who are the face of the service and who make the passenger experience what it is.
The updated report will be released next week, so do keep an eye out.
Some time ago, we were approached to try and help a passenger to resolve a longstanding complaint about a SailRail ticket. This is a combined rail and ferry ticket. On the return journey, on arrival at the ferry terminal at Rosslare they were advised that the timings of the ferry had changed from 8am to 7.30am. This meant they had missed their ferry connection. This was not only an inconvenience, but also cost the passenger extra.
The complaint involved three separate parties, the third-party retailer (Trainline), Transport for Wales and Stena. The passenger initially approached Trainline for a refund but Trainline referred the passenger back to Transport for Wales which is responsible for timetabling information. After unsuccessful attempts to resolve the complaint themselves, the passenger was becoming increasingly frustrated and we were asked to step in and help. We then worked with Transport for Wales and Stena to try and get to the bottom of what went wrong so we could establish which party was responsible for providing the passenger with a refund. After several months of speaking to various departments we established that Transport for Wales had not been notified of the ferry timetable change in April until July. It therefore could not have communicated the relevant information to Trainline.
After negotiating between parties, Stena agreed to refund the passenger for costs of around £150 and offered complimentary SailRail tickets as a gesture of goodwill, which was a great outcome for the passenger.
Throughout, we have been keen to ensure better communication for passengers making rail and ferry connections in West Wales on a long-term basis. Determined efforts have brought Transport for Wales and Stena together, improving communication and co-ordination between their staff and services that will result in wider benefits for passengers.
Through this work, Stena has highlighted some issues relating to rail and ferry connections, including tight timetabling for a specific ferry service. We will continue to work with both parties to ensure that issues are addressed to ensure a more seamless journey for passengers. We will also be visiting Fishguard again in the near future to ensure passenger needs are being met.
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