Shrewsbury to Chester Line
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|Shrewsbury to Chester Line|
Wrexham county borough
Shrewsbury and Atcham
North West England
|Stations||Gobowen, Chirk, Ruabon and Wrexham General|
|Operator(s)||Arriva Trains Wales, Virgin Trains|
|Character||Main line, Commuter Rail, Freight|
|Rolling stock||Class 150 Sprinter, Class 153 Super Sprinter, Class 158 Express Sprinter, Class 175 Coradia, Class 221 Super Voyager|
|Line length||84.38 miles (135.80 km)|
|No. of tracks||Double track between Shrewsbury and Wrexham, Single track between Wrexham and Chester.|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||50 mph (80 km/h),
70 mph (110 km/h),
(Formerly 90 mph or 140 km/h).
The Shrewsbury to Chester Line, also known as the Severn–Dee Mainline (after the rivers on which Shrewsbury and Chester stand), was built in 1846 as the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway. The engineer for the line was Henry Robertson, a partner in locomotive builders Beyer Peacock, while the contractor was Thomas Brassey in partnership with William Mackenzie and Robert Stephenson.
The North Wales Mineral Railway, connecting Chester via Wrexham to Ruabon, had been constructed from 1844 to take advantage of mineral rights. However, realising that it offered connection opportunities between the Port of Liverpool and the industrialised Midlands, the railway applied to extend to Shrewsbury. This was refused by Parliament.
Forming an independent group of similar investors, the Act of Parliament which authorised the construction of the Shrewsbury, Oswestry and Chester Junction Railway passed in 1845. Construction started and was completed by 1848, but the final route bypassed Oswestry, resolved by building a branchline from Gobowen to a halt just outside the town.
After battling with the larger London and North Western Railway from 1849, in 1854 the company agreed to become part of the Great Western Railway's main line from London Paddington to Birkenhead Woodside, merged with the North Wales Mineral Railway to become the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway.
After the implementation of the Railways Act 1921, the halt in Oswestry was closed in favour of the absorbed Cambrian Railways Oswestry station. On nationalisation in 1946 it became part of the Western Region until later transferred to the London Midland Region of British Rail in 1963.
It runs from Shrewsbury in England to Chester, also in England. Of the remaining intermediate stations, Gobowen is in England but the rest are in Wales. A campaign for the re-opening of Baschurch Station is now under way.
The towns served by the lines are listed below.
- Chester (7 platforms and station cafe/ticket office/shops)
- Wrexham (6 platforms and station cafe/ticket office/bistro) Also acts as a secondary terminus for services travelling part of the line.
- Ruabon (2 platforms)
- Chirk (2 platforms)
- Gobowen (for Oswestry) (2 platforms and ticket office)
- Shrewsbury (5 platforms and station cafe/ticket office/shop/British Transport Police presence)
At Chester, there are connections towards Crewe and Holyhead (on the North Wales Coast Line), towards Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington Bank Quay (on the Chester to Manchester Line), towards Manchester Piccadilly via Northwich (on the Mid-Cheshire Line) and towards Liverpool Lime Street (on Merseyrail's Wirral Line).
At Wrexham, there are connections towards Liverpool (change at Bidston) via The Borderlands line and London via the west coast mainline. Wrexham General also acts as a terminus for many services travelling part of the line.
At Shrewsbury, connections are provided towards Carmarthen via Hereford and Cardiff Central and Manchester via Crewe (via the Welsh Marches Line), towards Aberystwyth and Pwllheli (on the Cambrian Line), towards Swansea (via the Heart of Wales Line) and towards Birmingham New Street
Growth in services
In December 2005, Arriva Trains Wales introduced a new timetable to the line, providing an hourly service between Shrewsbury and Chester, Monday to Saturday, from early morning until around midnight (involving eight additional trains serving Gobowen). This improved service includes a through train every two hours between Holyhead and Cardiff throughout most of the day. The line has seen passenger numbers double during 2003–2004 and increase by 30% since 1999.
On 28 April 2008, Wrexham & Shropshire began providing services along the section of line between Wrexham General and Shrewsbury, continuing via Wolverhampton to London Marylebone. The service ceased on 28 January 2011, due in part to restrictions imposed on W&S to protect the commercial interests of Virgin Trains' operations on the West Coast mainline.
Chester to Shrewsbury Rail Partnership
The Chester to Shrewsbury Rail Partnership aims to promote travel along the line and to seek improvements to services and facilities. It is a member of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP). In 2006, the Chester to Shrewsbury Rail Partnership commissioned the Scott Wilson Report to assess the feasibility of certain enhancements to the service. These include the re-opening of stations at Rossett and Johnstown & Hafod and the opening of a new station at Lache.
On 20 March 2012 it was announced that sections of this line would be upgraded to a total of £46 million worth of improvements. These include redoubling the Wrexham – Chester section of the line, and upgrading sections of the line to allow for 90 mph running throughout. This will allow for an increase in traffic between Wrexham and Chester, including further London services and a possibility of regular services to new destinations. One report has suggested extending the hourly First TransPennine Express Hull – Manchester Piccadilly service to Wrexham via Chester, which would provide a direct service to Manchester, Leeds and Hull. Other suggestions include extending the current hourly Chester – Crewe shuttle service south to Wrexham and north to Manchester (via Manchester Airport).
- On 24 May 1847, five passengers were killed and many were injured in the Dee bridge disaster. A Chester to Ruabon train fell 11 m (36 ft) into the River Dee, following the collapse of the Dee Railway bridge on the outskirts of Chester. A girder, which had cracked in the middle, gave way as the train crossed. The engine and tender managed to reach the other side of the bridge but the carriages crashed into the river. The bridge was engineered by Robert Stephenson despite warnings from civil engineer, William Fairbairn. He had warned Stephenson about the problems using cast iron girders only a few months before construction of the bridge at a meeting at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, but his advice was ignored. A Royal Commission following this accident led to a re-evaluation of the use of cast-iron in railway bridges. Many new bridges had to be reinforced or rebuilt.
- On 7 June 1865, a rail crash at Rednal killed 13 people when a heavy 28 carriage excursion train derailed near Rednal station, having failed to notice warnings of track maintenance ahead.
- On 13 February 1961, a passenger train travelling from Shrewsbury to Chester collided with a freight train which was partially shunted into a siding in Baschurch. Three people died in the accident Television footage of the wreckage is available from the BBC.
- On 11 January 1965, the Coton Hill rail crash took place at Coton Hill, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England. It happened when a heavily loaded freight train ran out of control on the 1 in 100 Hencote incline and was derailed on a set of trap points, eventually demolishing Coton Hill South signal box killing the signalman on duty and seriously injuring the driver of the train.
- On 19 July 2008, the 16:46 Cardiff–Wrexham service struck a tractor and trailer at the Weston Rhyn level crossing between Gobowen and Chirk just before 17:00. The tractor driver suffered severe head injuries in the incident and the train suffered severe front end damage, although it stayed on the rails.
- Hills, R. L.; Patrick, D. (1982). Beyer, Peacock, locomotive builders to the world. Glossop: Transport Publishing Co. ISBN 0-903839-41-5.
- Helps, Arthur The Life and Works of Mr Brassey, 1872 republished Nonsuch, 2006. p. 107 ISBN 1-84588-011-0
- "Time-line of the Early Railways in and around Shropshire". ShrewsburyRHT.org.uk. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
- "Baschurch Station". Baschurch Station Group. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
- "You can get off at Wolverhampton but you can't get on: How crazy rules killed Britain’s last great railway". Daily Mail. 29 January 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
- A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain – Volume 11: North and Mid Wales, Peter E Baughan 1980, ISBN 0-7153-7850-3
- Today's Railways Issue 81