Amongst other changes, First Cymru will be commencing two new services of particular interest from Monday 1 September.
There'll be a new Swansea - Carmarthen direct service, the X12, running 4 times a day, cutting journey times by 40 minutes. With journey times of an hour and return tickets for £5, this will provide decent competition with the train. While the train takes around 45 minutes to travel between the two, with a return costing nearly double First's fare, I expect the new service to be a success.
In the Bridgend area, there will also be a new X7 service from Cymmer/Maesteg to Cardiff. I'm particularly interested in this as I've felt for years that direct bus services between Cardiff and Bridgend have not been explored properly.
First run 2 services between Bridgend and the capital - the X2 which takes around an hour through Cowbridge and the Vale of Glamorgan on the A48, then through Ely. There is also the Greyhound which takes half an hour from McArthur Glen Retail Outlet but sadly there are no day ticket options for passengers using other First Cymru services in order to catch the Greyhound, and while ticket prices online are relatively cheap, the reality is that the train is more frequent and similarly priced. As a result, from my experience at least, patronage between Bridgend and Cardiff is very low.
The new X7 takes 42 minutes from McArthur Glen to Cardiff bus station, calling in at the service area just off junction 35 of the M4. It will be interesting to see if passengers use the service in Pencoed as there are no other public transport links to the stop, which is a long walk from the centre of Pencoed. Maybe we could see passengers using a car to drive to a bus stop - common with rail travel but not with the bus.
What will this mean for the Greyhound and the X2? Most bus services serving Bridgend stop at McArthur Glen so there is connectivity with the X7 for most routes. Using the X7 would save around half an hour by changing at McArthur Glen. Given the extra time it takes to get to Bridgend town centre, the X7 is a very real alternative to the train, plus prices are cheaper. Also, First's South Wales all day/weekly/monthly etc tickets can be used on it and so passengers won't have to pay extra, unlike the Greyhound. The service is unlikely to make any difference to passengers travelling from the east and south of Bridgend.
I expect patronage on the Greyhound from Bridgend to virtually disappear and that X7 buses will be full. As the service uses the motorway, passengers will not be allowed to stand and I foresee passengers being refused entry, especially at McArthur Glen.
I would also expect more direct buses between Bridgend and Cardiff as the X7 gains popularity. I think First are on to a winner with it.