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Wrexham and Shropshire 67012 Marylebone TT1

Franchise(s):Not subject to franchising;
Open-access operator
28 April 2008 - 2014
Main route(s):London MaryleboneWrexham
Other route(s):None
Fleet size:4
Stations called at:12
Parent company:Laing Rail/Renaissance Trains
Web site:www.wrexhamandshropshire.co.uk

Wrexham & Shropshire is the operating name of the Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway Company, a railway company in the United Kingdom. The company operates passenger train services from Wrexham (in North Wales) via Shropshire to London on an open-access basis, with its agreement for a seven year period from December 2007.[1] Wrexham & Shropshire began running services on 28 April 2008.[2]

The main purpose of the company is to restore direct services between London and Shropshire (formerly one of only two counties in England without a direct rail link to the English capital; the remaining one being Rutland), which were lost when Virgin Trains withdrew its service in 2000.

ServicesEdit

RouteEdit

File:WSMR route trial pic.png

From Wrexham General, the route runs via Chirk, Ruabon and Gobowen (near Oswestry) to Shrewsbury, then via Wellington, Telford Central and Cosford[3] to Wolverhampton. From Wolverhampton, the route has the major obstacle of Birmingham to circumvent; it is routed via Tame Bridge Parkway, Birmingham International and Coventry, before joining the Chiltern Main Line at Leamington Spa. Trains will then call at Banbury and finally London Marylebone.

Under the terms of Wrexham & Shropshire's Track Access Contract, trains will not be permitted to call at Coventry or Leamington Spa.[4] However, the agreement does allow for WSMR trains to serve Birmingham International, but the company's proposed timetable does not include this.[5] Calling at Tame Bridge Parkway, a station with a substantial car park and good bus services, has the additional benefit of providing Walsall a direct service to London.

TimetableEdit

Wrexham & Shropshire route map
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Wrexham General
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Ruabon
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Chirk
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Gobowen
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Shrewsbury
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Wellington
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Telford Central
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Cosford
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Wolverhampton restricted access
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Tame Bridge Parkway
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Banbury restricted access
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London Marylebone London Underground

Wrexham & Shropshire's initial timetable is for five trains per day between Wrexham and London, with a total journey time of between 4 and 4½ hours.[5] The company have acknowledged that these journey times are longer than they would like;[citation needed] however, as a new operator they are bound to work around existing operators' services, and as a result the timetables allow a large amount of waiting time, particularly in the West Midlands. Also, between Princes Risborough and London Marylebone the journey is slower, as the speed limit is significantly lower at 75mph and WSMR trains must share tracks with the many Chiltern Railways' local, stopping services.

In the long term, the company is aiming to reduce journey times as follows:[5]

  • London to Tame Bridge Parkway: 2 hours
  • London to Telford Central: 2 hours 35 minutes
  • London to Shrewsbury: 2 hours 50 minutes
  • London to Wrexham: 3 hours 30 minutes

Restrictions on servicesEdit

WSMR's original proposal was to commence operations by summer 2007, but plans were delayed because of a "moderation of competition" protection clause in Virgin Trains' West Coast franchise agreement. Unless Virgin were willing to give their agreement to WSMR services calling at Wolverhampton, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said they would have to reject the WSMR proposals.[6] A revised Track Access Application was submitted, which was subsequently approved by the ORR. Under the amended proposals, WSMR trains will only call at Wolverhampton to pick up passengers northbound, and set down passengers southbound. To offset the reduction in potential passengers, services will call additionally at Tame Bridge Parkway.

Similarly to Wolverhampton, at Banbury southbound trains will only set down passengers and northbound trains will only pick up.[7] At both stations, there are already services to London provided by other operators.

Rival ServicesEdit

In February 2008, Virgin Trains announced that they would also begin services between London and Wrexham via Chester. Initially on a trial basis with one train per day on weekdays in each direction, should the service prove successful Virgin plan to introduce more services during the week and at weekends.[8] Virgin's services will operate from London Euston along the West Coast Main Line using the 125mph capable Class 221 diesel units. This will offer a competing journey time of approximately 2½ hours, compared with WSMR's average of 4 hours.

Future servicesEdit

The Welsh Assembly Government announced a proposal to introduce express services between North and South Wales, featuring trains with first class accomodation to attract business travellers. Wrexham & Shropshire declared an interest in the operation of these services from Wrexham to Cardiff in April 2008.[9]

On-boardEdit

Trains will have 128 standard seats and 24 first class seats.[10] Most seats will be at tables, with a few in "Airline" stlye. All seats will be aligned with the windows. [11]

There will be a buffet.

From Summer 2008 there will be WiFi.[12]

Rolling stockEdit

Services will be operated by locomotive-hauled trains. Each train will be formed of 125mph capable Class 67 diesel locomotive, three Mark 3 carriages, and a Mark 3 Driving Van Trailer (DVT).[13] Wrexham & Shropshire has obtained a total of four complete train sets, with twelve Mark 3 coaches and four DVTs obtained from Porterbrook and four Class 67 locomotives from EWS. The Mark 3 coaches are currently being refurbished at Marcroft at Stoke on Trent.[14]

In the week of 8 October 2006, a trial run was carried out using the EWS Company Train, from London Marylebone to Wrexham General via the proposed route. Originally the locomotive/DVT arrangement were used for expediency in getting a test run organised. However, as the test train arrived on time (despite a delay at Wolverhampton), it demonstrated that such a combination was a viable option.[7] There were regular trains between Wrexham and Marylebone to test the timetable between March and the launch in April 2008.

Earlier proposals included the possible use of diesel multiple units, such as the Class 158 or Class 170.[7]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 67 Wrexham and Shropshire 67012 Marylebone TT1 Diesel Locomotive 125 200 4 London Marylebone - Wrexham 1999-2000
Mark 3 Coach Wrexham and Shropshire 67012 Marylebone TT2 Passenger Rolling stock 125 200 12 London Marylebone - Wrexham 1975-1984
Not in use yet, Trains are top & tailed. Driving Van Trailer 125 200 4 London Marylebone - Wrexham 1988

Ownership and managementEdit

Wrexham & Shropshire is a joint venture between two existing railway companies: Renaissance Trains and Laing Rail. The directors of the company include John Nelson and Mike Jones from Renaissance Trains (also directors of Hull Trains) and Adrian Shooter (Chairman and Managing Director of Chiltern Railways and Chairman of the A.T.O.C.) and Andy Hamilton both from Laing Rail. Andy Hamilton (former Engineering Director of Chiltern Railways) has been appointed as Managing Director.

Track record of the partnersEdit

Renaissance Trains are a partner in Hull Trains, an open-access operator which has provided services between Hull and London Kings Cross since 2000. Hull Trains' punctuality record is 94.8%, the second-best punctuality figures amongst all long-distance train operating companies in Britain.[15] They were also awarded the Golden Spanner in 2005 and 2006 for the reliability of their trains.[16]

Laing Rail are the owners of Chiltern Railways and are in turn owned by the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB).[17] Since being awarded their franchise in 1996, Chiltern Railways increased passenger numbers by 70%, increased services by a third and more than doubled the number of carriages operated.[18] Also Chiltern Railways are the third most punctual train operator in the UK with a record of 94.5% for the second financial quarter of 2007/2008.[19] Chiltern Railways already operate services along part of the proposed Wrexham & Shropshire route, between London Marylebone and Kidderminster. In December 2007, Henderson Group, the parent company of John Laing plc announced the sale of the Laing Rail division, which comprises the stake in Wrexham & Shropshire, as well as the franchise Chiltern Railways and a stake in London Overground Rail Operations Ltd (LOROL). Two bidders emerged, Deutsche Bahn and NedRail,[20] with DB ultimately being successful.

OperationsEdit

Trains will be stabled overnight in the disused bay platform at Wrexham General and disused offices there will serve as the train crew depot.[21] Customer services are based however in Coton Hill, Shrewsbury.[22]

Welsh Assembly fundingEdit

In October 2006, the Welsh Assembly announced that WSMR did not qualify for employment grants which it would then use to improve the facilities at Wrexham General station to turn it into the company's operational centre. This led to speculation that, if the funding could not be found, the company might have had to relocate to Shrewsbury, which would have affected the number of services it could run to Wrexham.[23] However, in November 2006, the Welsh Assembly announced that the WSMR was eligible for the money, and as a result, a site survey at Wrexham General was undertaken. The depot is subject to the WSMR being allowed to operate trains, and will be open to all train operating companies.[24]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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