THE NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY NOTICE
Hysbysfwrdd Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru
On Barmouth Bridge, 30 January (Ian
This site is dedicated to all our regular contributors and
supporters, and especially the rail staff of North Wales.
02 February 2010
Some parts of or area woke up to another dose of snow on Sunday 31
January. Above, 158 818
arrives at a snowy Wrexham General for the 13:39 to Birmingham (George Jones). Sundays in February
will see trains terminate here whilst engineering work is done on the
single line towards Chester.
Class 60 power still rules on the Tunstead - Oakleigh limestone trains:
60 094 Rugby Flyer passes Ashley with the
Sunday loaded train on 31 January. (Richard
Altrincham station at 20:00. The Metrolink line has been shortened by a
few metres recently, to provide for an improved accessible route to the
Manchester-bound Northern Rail platform. (Charlie Hulme)
Watching the Pendolino
The Saturday Pendolino 'drag' on 30 January produced two different
blue-liveried 57/3 locos, and some pleasant pictures from our
contributors on a sunny winter's day. Above, the westbound train passes
Rhyl behind unbranded 57 313 (Larry
Old Rhyl No 2 signalbox looks down on a changing world. (Larry Davies)
57 313, with 390 027 Virgin Buccaneer in tow, passes the
footpath underpass at Old Colwyn (Stéphanie
Sunny, but a day to avoid the edge of the promenade (Darren Durrant)
Through Llanfair PG station (Richard
57 315 hauled the return train
to Crewe: John Young's picture
shows the train entering Bangor station; the signalbox is currently
Back through Old Colwyn (Stéphanie
Durrant). We wonder if this is to be the regular method for
transferring locos from the Holyhead - Cardiff service to Manchester
Longsight depot for attention?
Near Connah's Quay (Stavros Lainas)
The previous Saturday, 23 January, and a matching train: 57 306 Jeff Tracy hauls 390 014 City of Manchester westbound
through Waverton between Crewe and Chester (Tim J. Rogers)
The same train runs into
Llandudno Junction, as seen by Paul
Williams from the Queens Road bridge.
Road and Air news
Work on the '£50m' (it was '£40m' a year ago) Porthmadog,
Minffordd and Tremadog by-pass on the A487 Bangor to Fishguard
Trunk Road was officially 'kicked off' on 29 January by Welsh transport
minister Ieuan Wyn Jones in a 'special tree-planting ceremony' to mark
The new road will run inland of the town of Porthmadog, removing
through traffic from the Cob and the main street including the Welsh
Highland's street-running section. It will cross the Glaslyn river
alongside the Cambrian Coast line's bridge, and require 840 metres of
the line to be relocated to a new alignment. Network Rail plans involve
building the new line while the existing route remains open, and
connecting it up over two weekend possessions.
Meanwhile, Highland Airways, operators of the Valley - Cardiff air
service as well as various routes in Scotland. has run into financial
problems, blamed on cancellations due to bad weather, despite its
£800,000 annual subsidy for the Welsh service from the Welsh
Assembly Government. But up pops Ieuan Wyn Jones AM again to tell us
that the WAG was determined to see the service continue, whether that
was with Highland Airways or another company. He says it is a 'vital
link' and that they were committed to keep it flying. The service has
'surpassed even optimistic projections of passenger numbers with close
to 30,000 users' of the 18-seater flights over the first two years.
We understand the total subsidy WAG currently pays for the air service
including civilian terminal at RAF Valley is £1.2m a year,
compared to £1.7m a year for the Holyhead - Cardiff express train
'Y Gerallt Gymro' (or 'Von Ieuan's Express', according to some joker).
Highland Airways contract for the Welsh route ends in May 2010. An
Assembly Government spokesman 'declined to comment' on a report in the Western Mail that it was the only
airline to bid for a new contract.
And yet - the politicians continue to discuss ideas for further flights
from Valley to Cardiff, as well as London and Dublin which would,
according to Anglesey MP Albert Owen, 'make Anglesey a very attractive
place to do business.'
Wrexham and Shropshire news and
After a late Friday fall of snow in north east Wales the scene at
Wrexham General was again wintry on 30 January. Above, 67 013 leaves with the 11:23 to
London Marylebone diverting via the West Coast Main Line again. 67 014
arrives light engine having come back from works attention - wheel
Later the same day, and, 67 014 is now at the north end of the 14:18
departure formed of the Cargo-D blue and grey coaches and DVT 82304
(above, left) and 67 012 which had brought in the northbound train was
stabled in the bay. This swap has allowed the terminating train to
start from platform 1 as a shunting move. Inside two hours the snow had
gone, but it remained treacherous underfoot in places.
Cyclists will be pleased to know that the doors on the W&S Driving
Van Trailers are now passed for use (there was a locking problem
apparently) and bikes are now being carried with effect from 23/24
Above, The open door awaits and there was one bike stowed inside on 24
Some other news about Wrexham General station is that listed building
consent has been given for the installation of a lift to access
Platform 4, the Bidston line platform which was once considered a
separate station, Wrexham Exchange.
During the two-week closure of the southern half of the Conwy
Valley line due to engineering works150237 awaiting return to the
Junction at North Llanrwst with the 12:26 service on Monday 25 January.
One of the excellent illustrated posters - this one at Llanrwst -
Arriva Trains Wales which gave clear directions for the replacement
buses and which have drawn very favourable comment from passengers.
A minor classic: a picture taken on 30 January by Stavros Lainas showing 150 285 on a Wrexham-bound train
departing at 14:18 from Cefn-y-Bedd, a location rarely seen on these
150 282, working the other
Borderlands line diagram on the same day, calls at Penyffordd at 15:07.
This station has the only signalbox between Wrexham (Croes Newydd) and
Dee Marsh Junction. The siding just beyond the box, which has a
run-round loop for use by freight trains is the remnant of the
connection to the former Chester to Denbigh line. Penyffordd, or
Pen-y-Ffordd, can be translated as The End of the Road...
The Wrexham - Bidston route continues to see workings of Merseyrail
electric trains for overhaul at Doncaster works. Above, 67 026 drags 507 012 round the curve at Buckley
with 5X75 15:53 Birkenhead North - Doncaster on 27 January.
On another branch-line, 153 327
waits at Llandudno on 28 January (Darren
The 'dogbox' departs from
Llandudno for the Conwy Valley, under one of the last semaphore signal
gantries still in use in Britain (Darren
The scene at Maesdu Road in Llandudno, where pile-driving is under way
for the construction of the new road bridge (Stéphanie Durrant)
Stavros Lainas (and quite a lot
of others) set out for Parkside on 30 January to photograph the 'Cotton
Mill Express' steam tour round Lancashire which has been revived by the
Railway Touring Company following the demise of the Past Time Rail
organisation last year. Unfortunately this train; hauled by 6115 Scots Guardsman, was cancelled at
Preston due, apparently, to brake problems, but as a consolation prize,
the sole DB-liveried Class 66, 66 152,
the head of empty ballast wagons returning from Bury where
some relaying work is taking place on the Metrolink line.
Incidentally, there is now also a DB Verkehrsrot
Class 67, 67 018, which has been repainted and renamed Keith Heller to commemorate the
retirement of that gentleman as 'head honcho' of DB Schenker's UK
division. It also carries a large maple leaf symbol to reflect his
Canadian homeland. 37 670, which also carries the new livery, has been
stored away after suffering a failure. The other loco so far repainted
is 59 206: perhaps a Class 92 will be next?
The Duchess and the donkey
impudence, 1981 style: Thanks to Peter
Hanson for this fascinating
picture taken at Chester station
June 1981. 46229 Duchess of Hamilton was a regular
on the 'North Wales Coast Express' steam trains, having been recovered
from a Butlin's Holiday Camp and restored to working order in 1980 by
the National Railway
Museum. Today it is on display in the Museum in York, looking
completely different, having been returned to its original 1930s
Alongside this majestic loco stands the prototype two-car railbus 140 001 which was tested on various
routes around Britain at the time. It married the Leyland National bus
body and a wagon-style underframe with a BR-designed cab which was
intended to be strong in a collision. For the production version, the
Class 141, a better-looking cab was designed, and for the second
version, the Class 142 'Pacers' which run into to Chester today on the
Northern Rail route via Northwich, the body was made wider than the
original bus body bus version to better match the normal train width
and allow 3+2 seating. The unique Class 140 still exists, preserved but
'awaiting restoration' on the Keith and
Dufftown Heritage Railway in Scotland.
Behind the scenes at Basford Hall - with Andrew Vinten
I was lucky enough to get permission to visit to Basford Hall yard,
Crewe, on 24 January. The first picture shows 66 608 and 66 605 top-and-tail part of a
Continuous Welded Rail train (CWR); both of these locomotives were
assembling engineering trains.
Also present in the yard was 70
... along with 86 638 / 613 / 607.
The last picture is a overview of the holding sidings the following
locomotives were present (left - right) 66 543 and 66 572, 66 593, 66 503, 66 603, 66 617. The latter two were stood at
the head of engineering trains.
Chester station, the passengers' view - by George Jones
[catchphrase: Putting Passengers First] has released the results of an
investigation into passenger perceptions and satisfaction with the
station environment and facilities at 25 Stations across England and
Wales. The study undertaken in Nov/Dec 2008 aimed to establish the
impact of the National Station Improvement Programme (NSIP) by
recording passenger satisfaction with stations before the
government-sponsored improvement programme took place. £150
million will support improvements at 150 stations and a similar study
will be repeated in 2009/2010 at the same stations to establish which
elements of the improvements had greatest impact on passenger
satisfaction. A questionnaire designed by Faber Maunsell was handed out
in the course of weekday shifts on one morning and one afternoon and on
one Saturday mid-day period.
At Chester the three shifts produced 134 completed survey forms,
representing 4% of the daily patronage figure taken from the Office of
Rail Regulation's website for 2007 'footfall.' Of the 134 returns 38.9%
of respondents were male and 61.1% female. The highest proportions of
respondents were aged 45-54 with 24.8%, 16-25 with 22.4%. Some form of
disability was recorded for 29 respondents. Just 36.1% of respondents
used Chester station at least once a week with a shopping trip being
the most common reason for the visit – not surprising at this time of
year which missed out the tourist season. The majority, 86, were
travelling alone. In terms of ticketing the majority 84% were
travelling with Anytime or Off-peak tickets.
The majority of respondents 79.1% were arriving at the station, 17.2%
were changing trains and 3.7% were leaving. Over one third had walked
to the station, and over one quarter had used a coach or bus, whilst a
third used car parking. Of those leaving onward travel was by bus or
coach for 40% of respondents.
Mean scores from a set of tables found that there was general
Less satisfaction was recorded for:
- Availability of public transport and taxis
- Ease of access on foot to the station entrance
- Passenger information services - other than for tickets.
- Station areas
- Safety and security facilities
- Car and bicycle parking facilities
- Ease of drop-off by car
- Passenger facilities – with the exception of booking office
appearance, retail outlets, refreshment facilities and clocks which
were all satisfactory – all had recently been refurbished.
Over half of respondents were dissatisfied with the number of car
parking spaces and the availability of waiting rooms. The 'client'
(Network Rail and Arriva Trains Wales) remarked that there are two car
parks at the station (east and west ends both inadequate), cycle
storage and a taxi rank but 'no bus available' (whatever the last
comment means given the availability of the City Hopper service and the
N orth Wales buses which terminate opposite in City Road.)
Overall the 'how satisfied with the station' question found a mark of
6.07 on the scale of 1-10, meaning slightly satisfied. Most respondents
(81.6%) felt that over the past year Chester had got better, 11.7% felt
it had stayed the same and 6.7% felt it had got worse. Refurbishment of
the station (they mean the concourse) was noticed by 16 respondents,
the new café (Costa) by 11 and general smartening up by 10.
Most noticeable improvements mentioned by 80.7% of respondents referred
Facilities in need of improvement ranked provision of a waiting room as
top priority (47 respondents), plus toilets (38) - unavailable,
insufficient and unpleasant - and car parking - insufficient and
- A new ticket office - 16
- A café / refreshments - 19
- The outside entrance - 13
- Cleaner/tidier looks - 9
- General modernisation / refurbishment / smartening of the station
Asked to rank facilities in need of improvement the waiting room (23),
car parking (15) step-free access from platform to train (12) were
identified. Of secondary importance were the waiting room (17), audible
announcements on train times (10), the waiting shelter (possibly the
one on platform 7) (9) and toilets (9).
Toilets, information and the waiting room were again marked as third in
importance by 34 respondents. The four facilities deemed important were
ranked as: Toilets; Visual train information: Connecting buses; and
Audible announcements on arrival and departure times.
For the informed user of Chester station the reported results will come
as no surprise. However the quality of the results for facilities might
be judged from the scores of 3.49 and 3.41 awarded to the non-existent
subway and escalator at Chester! Quite why a quality survey contains
such inappropriate questions is something for the designers perhaps to
consider next time round.
Further inquiries have encouraged the setting up of an
exhibition at Chester to show what is intended for the refurbishment of
Pictures by Charlie Hulme, October 2009. The text is reproduced, by
kind permission, from the January issue of Severn Dee News, the excellent
newsletter of the Shrewsbury - Chester Rail Users' Association
(SCRUA). Membership of the Association is open to all: Individual
Membership is £6 per year, Family Membership £8. Email us
and we will pass on the membership secretary's address.
page : 2010
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