- OUTWARD The first two Stagecoach buses north from Aberdare – which leave at 0540 and 0640) terminate at the top end of the Glynneath Bank ( at 0606 and 0706 respectively). They’re no use for onward connections. It’s a mile and three-quarters downhill to Pontwalby, and another half a mile or so to Glynneath itself. Even assuming it was a nice morning, and light enough to walk to the village without being run over by fast-moving traffic, you’d be hard-pressed to make it in time for the 0630 First Bus X55 departure to Swansea, never mind the next one at 0715.
The first practical connection (and I’m using the word ‘practical’ in its loosest sense) is the one between the 0655 bus from Aberdare, which terminates at Morfa Glas (the western end of Glynneath) at 0734, and the 0759 X55 from Glynneath, which arrives at Swansea Bus Station at 0909. I don’t know what there is to do for nearly half an hour in Glynneath at that time of the morning. I dare say the Co-op will be open so you can at least shelter from the rain.
It’s an expensive and time-consuming way to have a day in the shopping centre, or a breath of sea air. It’s no use whatsoever if you work in Wales’s second city, barely twenty-five miles away – much less if you’re studying at the university, a further bus ride away, or working outside the city centre.
RETURN The 1720 X55 from Swansea Bus Station is timetabled to arrive at the Pioneer supermarket in Glynneath at 1833. By a strange coincidence, the last Stagecoach 8 service to Aberdare leaves Morfa Glas at … 1833. Since we’re dealing with two competing companies the arrangement prior to October 1986, whereby a connecting service would wait for up to ten minutes for the feeder bus to arrive, no longer applies. As you can imagine, it would only need a tiny delay on the journey from Swansea to fuck that Rizla-thin ‘connection’ up entirely. Would you risk it? No, neither would I.
That puts you on the previous X55, leaving Swansea at 1645 and arriving in Glynneath at 1802. At least at this time of the day the pubs are open, so you can kill half an hour before the last 8 runs from Morfa Glas. Either way, you’re on course to arrive back in Aberdare at 1915. As with the outward journey, it’s no possible use to anyone working in the city centre, never mind studying at the university campuses a further bus ride away.TOTAL TRAVELLING TIME: 2h 14m out, 2h, 30m return = 4h 44m
Let’s break down the cost, just to complete the exercise. I’ve based this on the price of adult tickets, using information from the companies’ websites.
Aberdare – Glynneath: £4.80 (Aberdare Day Rider ticket); Glynneath – Neath: £4.20 (Neath Port Talbot Day ticket); Neath – Swansea: £5.00 (Swansea Bay Day ticket) TOTAL COST = £14.00
If you’re planning on reliving this nightmare for a whole week (and why wouldn’t you?), the total goes up to £53.70 – that’s £11.70 for your Aberdare Megarider, plus £20.00 for the Neath Port Talbot Weekly ticket, and £22.00 for the Swansea Bay Weekly ticket. Compare this with Arriva Trains Wales’s weekly ticket from Aberdare to Cardiff, which suddenly seems pretty reasonable at a mere £26.70 for an hour’s journey over a comparable distance.
- OUTWARD If you live in Aberdare or further up the valley, you can catch the 0655 Stagecoach service to Hirwaun. You hang around for half an hour, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, until the X75 comes along at 0742. Then you may or may not have to change at Resolven, arriving in Swansea at 0840.
It’s better than Option 1, but still no use to anyone working outside the city centre, or travelling on to the university campus at Singleton Park. It’s hardly surprising that it seems to be used almost exclusively by senior citizens armed with their concessionary passes.
DRETURN The fourth and final X5A of the day leaves Swansea at 1740. Even after fucking about in Resolven, the X75 arrives in Hirwaun at 1835. You might – if you’re very, very lucky – be in time to jump on the 1835 7 service. If not, don’t worry – the last 8 from Glynneath is only twenty minutes behind. In the latter case, you’ll arrive back in Aberdare at 1915.(I can’t give you a cost breakdown for this one, because the fares information on the Traveline Cymru website is ‘coming soon’ – and has been for at least a year and a half.)TOTAL TRAVELLING TIME: 1h 45 m out, 1h 35m return = 3h 20m
The return journey was just as long. I left the campus on the 1745 bus, arrived back in the city centre at just before 1830, and had an hour or so to kill until my booked journey back to Cardiff. Even on the ‘fast’ train it takes about 45 minutes, so I eventually arrived back in Aberdare at 2145.