Wrexham & Shropshire
|Franchise(s)||Open access operator|
Not subject to franchising
28 April 2008 – 28 January 2011
|Main route(s)||Wrexham - Shrewsbury - Wellington - Tame Bridge - London Marylebone|
|Stations called at||12 (also called at Wembley Stadium during events)|
Wrexham & Shropshire
Wrexham & Shropshire (legally Wrexham, Shropshire & Marylebone Railway Company Limited) was an open access operator that provided passenger rail services in the United Kingdom. Services between Wrexham and London Marylebone operated from April 2008 until January 2011.
The company was founded in early 2006 with the ambition of restoring the discontinued service to London to multiple stations in Shropshire and the Welsh Marches. In October 2006, an evaluation service was run from London Marylebone to Wrexham General to test the route's viability. In March 2007, Wrexham & Shropshire applied for track access rights to operate services with the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR); this application was granted from December 2007, enabling the launch of passenger services on 28 April 2008. While Wrexham & Shropshire had initially planned to operate a small fleet of Class 158 or Class 170 diesel multiple units, it was decided to use locomotive-hauled rakes of Mark 3 carriages, paired with Driving Van Trailers and Class 67 locomotives instead.
Having been established as a joint venture between John Laing and Renaissance Trains, the former sold its rail operations division and its shareholding in Wrexham & Shropshire to the German state railway company Deutsche Bahn in January 2008. In September 2009, DB Regio announced that it had arranged to take complete ownership of the company. DB Region partially aligned the company with another of its subsidiaries, Chiltern Railways, and at one point attempted to merge the two companies together. Financial support for the venture was forthcoming from the Welsh Assembly. New facilities were opened at Wrexham General, while a refurbishment programme of the Mark 3 carriages resulted in higher quality rolling stock being introduced from September 2009.
In 2009, it became clear that the service was attracting a lower than anticipated number of passengers, an outcome that Wrexham & Shropshire attributed to a wider economic downturn. The number of trains operated was decreased from a peak of five per day to three per weekday by December 2010. A rival service launched by Virgin Trains between London and Wrexham via Chester had also been launched in October 2008; other operators also had ambitions to launch direct trains between London and Shrewsbury. During January 2011, it was announced that there was no prospect of the service ever becoming profitable; on 28 January 2011, Wrexham & Shropshire ceased all operations.
Wrexham & Shropshire was established during early 2006 with the aim of operating rail passenger services between Wrexham and London Marylebone. The company was a joint venture between John Laing and Renaissance Trains. Unlike the majority of train operating companies active at that time, this new operator had not been awarded a franchise to run the service, but instead pursued the venture as an open access operator There was no incumbent competition, as direct railway services between the region and London had been withdrawn by InterCity in 1992. While the franchised operator Virgin Trains had opted to launch its own service between Shrewsbury and London Euston in May 1998, the company had decided to withdraw this service during 1999.
In October 2006, an evaluation service ran from London Marylebone to Wrexham General via the proposed route using the EWS Company Train. This evaluation train, formed from a rake of Mark 3 carriages with a British Rail Class 67 locomotive on either end, was determined to be a satisfactory arrangement, and it was announced that a broadly similar arrangement would be pursued for the regular service during December 2006. However, Wrexham & Shropshire's original plans had envisaged using either Class 158 or Class 170 diesel multiple units, but a lack of available rolling stock had compelled the company to adopt the locomotive-hauled arrangement instead. Reportedly, planners had initially identified five potential routes for the service.
During October 2006, the Welsh Assembly announced that Wrexham & Shropshire did not qualify for employment grants which the company had intended to use to improve the facilities at Wrexham General railway station in order to turn it into its operational centre. This outcome led to speculation that, if sufficient funding could not be found, the company might have to relocate its base to Shrewsbury, and that such a move would adversely impact the number of services that would be operated to/from Wrexham as well as other stations. However, in November 2006, the Welsh Assembly announced that the Wrexham & Shropshire was eligible for the grant and, as a result, a site survey at Wrexham General was undertaken. Upon its completion, the depot was to be open to all train operating companies.
Approval and launch
In March 2007, Wrexham & Shropshire lodged an application with the Office of Rail Regulation for track access rights to operate services. In September 2007, the company was granted access rights from December 2007 for a seven-year period. The timing of this decision meant that Wrexham & Shropshire's original plan to launch passenger services in 2007 had to be postponed into the first part of the following year.
On 28 April 2008, Wrexham & Shropshire commenced scheduled passenger operations. The occasion was hailed by Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones as "a key role in building a more effective rail network for Wales". The launch of Wrexham and Shropshire saw the restoration of regular direct trains between Wrexham and London for the first time in 41 years.
The relatively lengthy journey time, which was partly due to the use of unfavourable train paths, was attributed as a detracting element of the service. Favourable features included the rolling stock itself, which was frequently observed to be of a high standard and relatively luxurious. The firm rapidly established an excellent reputation for customer service, being scored on multiple surveys in the high 90s, including a 99 percent customer satisfaction rating in 2010, the highest of any Britain train operator.
Ownership changes and proposed merger
In January 2008, John Laing's rail operations division, which included its shareholding in Wrexham & Shropshire, were sold to the German state railway company Deutsche Bahn. After this transaction, the shareholders in Wrexham & Shropshire were DB Regio (50%), Renaissance Trains (36%) and John Laing (14%). In September 2009, DB Regio announced that it would be taking complete ownership of Wrexham & Shropshire, resulting in its partial alignment with fellow DB-owned UK train operating company Chiltern Railways.
In September 2009, Wrexham & Shropshire announced that from the beginning of 2010, it hoped to transfer operation of the Wrexham & Shropshire branded services to fellow DB Regio subsidiary Chiltern Railways. In light of the problems encountered with Wrexham & Shropshire abstracting revenue from Chiltern Railways, the Department for Transport did not sanction the merger, effectively preventing it from going ahead.
On 28 January 2011, Wrexham & Shropshire ceased all operations after a review had concluded there was no prospect of the business ever being profitable; it had incurred losses of £2.9 million in 2010 alone. While the decision to terminate its services had been heavily influenced by financial factors, the company was not insolvent and was still able to fulfil all of its financial commitments. The low passenger numbers and lack of profitability were attributed to the Great Recession. Customers who had purchased advanced tickets beyond this date were able to use them on alternative routes using the trains of other companies. The last train that was run by the company was the 18:30 from London Marylebone to Wrexham General.
Following the end of operations, Wrexham & Shropshire's assets were dispersed and typically saw use elsewhere. The majority of the company's former rolling stock was transferred to Chiltern Railways and promptly re-deployed on its core Birmingham-London route. The Class 67 locomotives were returned to general use with their owner DB Schenker. Where possible, Wrexham & Shropshire's staff were found new positions with other train operators.
From Wrexham General services ran via Ruabon, Chirk, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Wellington, Telford Central, Cosford and Wolverhampton to Tame Bridge Parkway. From here services would proceed to Banbury and London Marylebone either via Stechford, Birmingham International and Coventry, or via Birmingham New Street and Solihull.
Because of a Moderation of Competition clause inserted into Virgin Trains' Track Access Contract with Network Rail by the government, Wrexham & Shropshire were not able to service a number of West Coast Main Line stations. Wrexham & Shropshire's Track Access Contract did not allow it to call at Birmingham New Street or Coventry, although the contract did allow it to call at Wolverhampton and Birmingham International to pick up only on northbound services and set down only on southbound services, although Wrexham & Shropshire elected not to serve the latter.
Likewise to protect Chiltern Railways from revenue abstraction (even though both entities were owned by the same parent company, DB Regio), northbound services could only pick up and southbound services set down at Banbury. From December 2009, the Banbury restrictions were lifted and services also called at Leamington Spa. The Leamington Spa stops were removed in May 2010, after the Department for Transport found that revenue had been abstracted from Chiltern Railways.
During weekend engineering works, Wrexham & Shropshire services were frequently diverted. When the Wrexham to Shrewsbury line was closed services operated from Wrexham General to Shrewsbury via Chester and Crewe. When the Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton line was closed services reversed at Shrewsbury before reversing again at Crewe and proceeding via Stafford to Wolverhampton. When the line south of Birmingham was closed, services operated via the West Coast Main Line, Willesden Junction, Acton Junction and Ealing Broadway to South Ruislip before reversing to reach Marylebone. When the South Ruislip to Marylebone line was closed services would be diverted to London Paddington.
Wrexham & Shropshire's initial timetable was for five trains per weekday between Wrexham and London with a journey time of approximately four hours and 15 minutes. This timetable had been formulated several years prior to the service's launch, largely by planners at John Liang.
In March 2009, the weekday service was reduced to four trains per day with one cut back to only operate from London to Shrewsbury, Wrexham & Shropshire citing the wider economic downturn for the cancelled services. From July until September 2010, a fourth Saturday service was operated. In December 2010, the weekday service was reduced further to three per day, with insufficient customer demand being cited as the reason.
In February 2008, Virgin Trains announced that its intention to operate a direct service between Wrexham General and Euston on a trial basis from December 2008, with a morning southbound and evening northbound service. Virgin's service operated from Wrexham General via Chester and Crewe to London Euston along the West Coast Main Line using Class 221 Super Voyagers, with a journey time of approximately two and a half hours, compared with Wrexham & Shropshire's average of four hours. As this was an extension of a Chester - Euston service, it did not serve stations in Shropshire or the West Midlands.
Arriva Trains Wales lodged an application with the Office of Rail Regulation to operate two daily trains from Aberystwyth to London Marylebone. The application was rejected in February 2010 because the Office of Rail Regulation was concerned about the financial viability of the service. DB Regio had stated that if the application was successful that it would cease funding Wrexham & Shropshire and operations would cease.
Services were operated by a DB Schenker Class 67, Mark 3 carriages and a Driving Van Trailer. To operate the service, DB Regio purchased a fleet of ex Virgin West Coast Mark 3s and Driving Van Trailers and put them through a refurbishment programme at Marcroft Engineering, Stoke-on-Trent. A dedicated fleet of four Class 67s (012-015) were repainted in Wrexham & Shropshire livery in preparation for the service's launch in April 2008, followed by a fifth (010) in April 2009.
When services commenced, none of the carriages were ready, thus Mark 3s were hired from Cargo-D and operated in top and tail with a Class 67 at each end. The Driving Van Trailers entered service in October 2008, but it would be September 2009 before the first Mark 3s were ready. Originally the four sets consisted of three Mark 3s, this was later increased to four from May 2009 although these were not refurbished internally.
Following Wrexham & Shropshire's reduction in service levels from December 2010, a single Mark 3 set was leased to Chiltern Railways to operate a Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone peak-hour service.
|Class||Image||Type||Quantity||Top speed||Route operated||Built|
The Mark 3 sets were based at Chiltern Railways' Aylesbury depot. They were also stabled at Wembley depot and in the bay platforms at the south end of Wrexham General that were reactivated.
- "Companies House extract company no 5970112." Wrexham Shropshire & Marylebone Railway Company Limited.
- "Direct London train for Wrexham." BBC News, 1 February 2006.
- "Presentation to Shropshire County Rail Forum." Shropshire County Council, 13 October 2006.
- "New rail link between Shropshire and London." BBC Shropshire, 8 December 2006.
- "Hull Trains style service is proposed for North Wales." Rail, issue 533, 15 February 2006. p. 17.
- "Open access bid for Wrexham-London." The Railway Magazine, issue 1260, April 2006. p. 11.
- "Pride of Shrewsbury." The Encyclopedia of Modern Traction Names.
- "Around the Regions." Rail, issue 315, 8 October 1997. p. 19.
- "New Virgin through services launched with fresh nameplate design." The Railway Magazine, issue 1168. August 1998. p. 53.
- "NR backs Wales-London open access bid to ORR." Rail, Issue 551. 25 October 2006, p. 17.
- "Wrexham Shropshire & Marylebone Railway runs trial loco-hauled service." Today's Railways UK, issue 60. April 2006, p. 7.
- "New open access service to Wrexham could use Class 67s." The Railway Magazine, issue 1268. December 2006. p. 10.
- New rail company plans direct Wrexham link with London. Daily Post, 13 October 2006.
- "Application to the Office of Rail Regulation a Passenger Track Access Contract" (PDF). Office of Rail Regulation. 5 March 2007.
- "Pledge over capital rail link". Shropshire Star. Shrewsbury. 19 October 2006. Retrieved 10 March 2007.
[Shrewsbury] could replace Wrexham as the main base for trains on the route after the Welsh Assembly refused funding for the project, meaning stops at Wrexham and Gobowen could be axed.
- "Rail depot may bring London link". BBC News Online. London. 21 November 2006. Retrieved 10 March 2007.
A Wrexham to London rail link is a step closer, after the Welsh Assembly Government offered funding for a depot.
- "ORR announces decision on additional services between London and Wrexham" (Press release). Office of Rail Regulation. 3 September 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007.
- "Track Access Contract between Network Rail Infrastructure Limited and Wrexham Shropshire and Marylebone Railway Company Limited" (PDF). Office of Rail Regulation. 10 September 2007.
- "Green light for Wrexham open access trains". The Railway Magazine. No. 1279. November 2007. p. 71.
- "Wrexham wins trains to London from next spring". Rail. No. 574. 12 September 2007. p. 18.
- "New direct rail services launches this April" (PDF) (Press release). Wrexham & Shropshire. 2 April 2008..
- Clinnick, Richard (7 May 2008). "40 years on – Wrexham and Shropshire takes to the rails". Rail. Vol. 591. Peterborough. pp. 6–7.
- "Wrexham & Shresbury Railway launches direct London service". The Railway Magazine. No. 1286. June 2008. p. 6.
- "Wrexham service to London starts". BBC News. 28 April 2008.
- "Buffers removed for Wrexham & Shropshire's direct service to the capital". Rail Technology Magazine. 1 May 2008.
- "Farewell Wrexham & Shropshire - Special Issue". nwrail.org.uk. 7 February 2011.
- "Wrexham to London rail link starts this month". North Wales Live. 3 April 2008.
- "Wrexham and Shropshire announce fares increase on semi flexible fares only". Shropshire Live. 26 November 2010.
- Bray, Eliza (2 March 2010). "The way we used to travel: the Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone railway". The Guardian.
- "Deutsche Bahn announces acquisition of Laing Rail" (Press release). Chiltern Railways. 21 January 2008. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2008.
- "Deutsche Bahn buys Laing Rail." Construction News, 21 January 2008.
- "Germans take over Chiltern as DB buys Laing Rail." Rail, issue 584, 30 January 2008. p. 6.
- "Deutsche Bahn buys Laing Rail." The Railway Magazine, issue 1283, March 2008. p. 11.
- "Wrexham Shropshire & Marylebone Railway Limited Annual Accounts". 31 December 2010, p. 21.
- "Chiltern Railways about to take over WSMR." Rail, issue 627, 23 September 2009. p. 14.
- "Wrexham & Shropshire backed by respected rail firm" (Press release). Wrexham & Shropshire. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
From the New Year ... Network Rail to transfer Wrexham & Shropshire’s track access rights to DB owned Chiltern Railways, ... no changes to the branding of Wrexham & Shropshire ... which will continue to be an open access business unit
- "Wrexham & Shropshire outlines Chiltern integration." Railway Express, issue 162. November 2009. p. 8.
- "Notice Imposing a Penalty Pursuant to Section 57A of the Railways Act 1993." Department for Transport, 16 June 2011.
- "Form 22." Office of Rail Regulation. 26 March 2010.
- "End of the line for Welsh rail minnow". The Times. 26 January 2011.
- "Wrexham-Shropshire-London direct rail link to end". BBC News Online. London. 26 January 2011.
- "Wrexham & Shropshire to cease operations on Friday 28 January." Wrexham & Shropshire.
- "Wrexham & Shropshire railway company to cease operating." Daily Post, (North Wales) 26 January 2011.
- "Wrexham & Shropshire to cease operations on 28 January 2011." Wrexham & Shropshire.
- "Chiltern deploys its former Wrexham stock." The Railway Magazine, issue 1324, August 2011. p. 78.
- Wrexham & Shropshire timetable 13 December 2009
- "Demise of Wrexham Shropshire destroys open access". christianwolmar.co.uk. 26 January 2011.
- "Sixteenth Supplemental Agreement to the Track Access Agreement." Network Rail, 2 December 2010.
- "Chiltern Railways fined for breaking franchise agreement." Birmingham Post, 16 June 2011.
- "WSMR is routed via WCML." The Railway Magazine, issue 1308. April 2010. p. 75.
- Thirteenth Supplemental Agreement to the Track Access Agreement Archived 11 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine Network Rail, 20 January 2010.
- "Wrexham & Shropshire timetable." Wrexham & Shropshire. Retrieved: 15 April 2008.
- "Firms cuts off-peak rail services." BBC News, 3 March 2009.
- "WSMR cuts back in face of recession." Rail, issue 613. 11 March 2009. p. 13.
- "WSMR cuts service". Modern Railways. London. April 2009. p. 6.
- "Wrexham & Shropshire cut services." The Railway Magazine, issue 1297. May 2009. p. 78.
- "Tracks - Dec 2010/Jan2011". Content.yudu.com. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
- Crump, Eryl (21 February 2008). "Wrexham to London rail link launch". Daily Post. Liverpool. Retrieved 25 April 2008.
Journey time will be around two-and-a half-hours.
- "Wrexham set to join Virgin Trains network" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 20 February 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
- "Wrexham to join Virgin map." Rail, issue 586. 27 February 2008. p. 11.
- "Arriva Trains Wales Limited 38th Supplemental Agreement." Office of Rail Regulation, 26 February 2010.
- "The Wrexham Shropshire and Marylebone Railway Company Limited Arriva Trains Wales 38th Supplemental Agreement." Wrexham & Shropshire letter, 19 October 2009.
- "DB Regio to cease funding WSMR if Arriva runs in to London". Rail (630). Peterborough. 4 November 2009.
- "Aberystwyth to London direct rail route rejected". BBC News Online. London. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
- "Wrexham & Shropshire DVTs enter traffic." The Railway Magazine, issue 84. December 2008. p. 68.
- "Wrexham & Shropshire gets refurb Mk 3s." The Railway Magazine, issue 1303, November 2009. p. 89.
- "Chiltern commence Birmingham loco-hauled." Rail Express, 14 December 2010.
- Harper, Richard; Rushton, Gordon (2014). Wrexham & Shropshire: Open Access - The One That Got Away. Adlestrop Press. ISBN 9780957145610. OCLC 909030821.
Media related to Wrexham & Shropshire at Wikimedia Commons