A £1.4M a year rail service to West Wales has started running for the first time, in a move aimed at boosting the area’s tourism and economy.
The five extra daily services between Fishguard and Carmarthen are in addition to the two current services connecting with the ferries to Ireland.
The Welsh Government’s investment comes after a long-running campaign supported by business leaders, as well as a petition organised by the area’s schoolchildren in 2009.
The extra trains will include through services to Carmarthen, Swansea, Cardiff, Manchester and good connections to London.
Rail users in Fishguard previously had to travel about 15 miles to Haverfordwest to catch a train.
Tourism and business leaders have welcomed the service, which they say is a major development in public service improvement for North Pembrokeshire.
“There is no doubt the people of Fishguard, and more widely across West Wales, will benefit from this, not only for their personal transport connections but in terms of attracting tourists,” said Brian Howells, secretary of Fishguard and Goodwick Chamber of Trade and Tourism.
Transport minister Carl Sargeant said the additional services will also support a Welsh Government drive to encourage more people to use rail rather than road. “It is now essential to ensure that these services are used regularly and are a success story,” he said.
A timetable for the new services was developed following consultation with a variety of interest groups and the local community in order to ensure that it best fits the needs of the region.
“I am confident that the timetable will make access to the whole of the UK rail network so much easier for the residents of North Pembrokeshire and for helping bring extra visitors into the county by rail,” added Mr Sargeant.
The extra five trains will run in both directions from Monday to Saturday.
Mark Langman, of Network Rail, said Wales relies on rail as a key driver and enabler of economic growth. “Rail travel is environmentally sustainable and connects communities. Today’s achievement owes to a shared vision and demonstrates the importance of partnership in creating similar successes for the railway in Wales,” he said.
A review of the extra services will be done after the third year of the scheme to identify demand and passenger numbers, the nature of trips taken and to seek further community and user views.
The services will be run by Arriva Trains Wales.