Hysbysfwrdd Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru

The now-rare sight of a freight train on the North Wales Coast line: Train 6D22, empty wagons to be loaded at Penmaenmawr Quarry passing Shotton on 1 February with 66 605. (Peter Lloyd)

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08 February 2010

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News from Port Penrhyn - by Nick Gurney

Port Penrhyn is busy at the moment shipping huge rocks of Granite,which are coming to Penrhyn from
the Hanson owned Quarry at Penmaenmawr, using flat-bed articulated lorries carrying 4 to 6 rocks at a time.

They are shipped in Dutch-registered general cargo ship the Rakel to Tywyn where they are transferred to smaller work boats and used on the new sea defences.

On 8 February Rakel departed Tywyn, destination St Malo, whence larger rocks will be brought. The Cambrian News of 28 January has more details about this project. The harbour master at Port Penrhyn says Rakel will be returning to the port when the tides start to make again, at present we have been given no future times of arrival. Lorry-loads of rock are still arriving at the port, and there is a large stockpile there now. Each rock has its weight spray-painted on it, ranging from 2 to 4+ tons.

[We can't help wondering whether delivery by rail from Penmaenmawr, perhaps unloading from the main line during the night, was considered...]

Wrexham and Shropshire variety show - pictures by Stavros Lainas

The complete Wrexham & Shropshire image: 67 014 Thomas Telford (above) south of Gobowen with the 11:27 to London on 5 February (Stavros Lainas)

The 'licorice allsorts' version, as 67 010 passes with the 11:20 from London formed of three Virgin-liveried vehicles,  blue and grey restaurant car 10257, and Chiltern Railways-liveried Driving Van Trailer 82302.

The same train returning as the 15:25 from Wrexham (turn-round times of just nine minutes are the norm at Wrexham)  seen north of Gobowen with 82302 leading.  Presumably this livery will get finished-off when Chiltern start their loco-hauled London - Birmingham trains.

6 February, the odd set  is seen approaching Baschurch  at 14:52 in a brief gap in the fog.

This set ran for a while with a silver restaurant car, as this picture by George Jones from 31 January shows, but apparently this will be in a new all-silver set being prepared at Wembley which will appear shortly, so make the most of Joseph's coat of many colours!

Further to our recent item regarding carriage of bikes by W&S, the company tell us that the promised door modification is actually still awaited but it has indeed been decided to use the Driving Van Trailers for bikes (which are carried free of charge) and other large luggage. The doors must only be operated by train staff, and 'the only proviso  is that Ruabon, Chirk, Cosford and Tame Bridge Parkway have short(er) platforms for our new 4-car operation so it is probable that the DVT will be off the usable platform edge, in these instances we would require the cycle and cyclist to wait in a suitable location on the train (normally under the guidance of the Train Manager) until we stop at a station where we can move the cycle through to the DVT.'

Wrexham terminations - report by George Jones

Sunday 7 February, and due to engineering work between Wrexham and Saltney Junction, the 11:05 northbound  Arriva Trains Wales service terminated in platform 3 with 158 823, the Wrexham & Shropshire train to London having departed from platform 1.

Arriva provided the replacement bus to Chester, seen using Wrexham station's new bus interchange and turning circle.

Second best - report by Andrew Vinten

On 5 February I visited a small hamlet called Kilpeck which is just off the A465 just north of Pontrilas, on the Cardiff - Shrewsbury 'Marches' line. I had hoped to get a shot of the Cardiff - Holyhead express, but unbeknown to me it wasn't coming - it was started at Chester worked by a Class 175. Whilst I was there, 66 580 passed hauling 6M55 06:44 Avonmouth port - Rugeley power coal train.

Saturday Pendolino

Saturday 6 February saw 57 306 Jeff Tracy hauling 57 315 as well as the Pendolino on train 1D83 from Crewe to Holyhead, pictured by Stavros Lainas bursting through thick fog at Rowton at 11:08.

The same train in brighter conditions passing Old Colwyn (Darren Durrant)

Leaving Llandudno Junction and climbing on to Conwy Cob (Larry Davies)

Llanfair PG (Richard Fleckney)

The return train was worked by 57 306 alone, 57 315 having been left behind at Holyhead to work Monday's Express to Cardiff after the problems the previous day which led to the cancellation of that train. Picture by Darren Durrant

Steel wagons (again)

At Hereford station on 5 February Andrew Vinten was able to study 6V75, 09:30 Dee Marsh - Margam, running 84 minutes early, while it paused in the station loops for a change of driver. A muddy 66 199 (above) was heading the train.

This gives us a chance to take a better look at some of the various wagon types which appear on this train, all of them solutions to the problem of loading steel coil by crane and then protecting them from the weather during the journey. Wagon VTG4055, above, is one of the batch of 'telescopic' rebuilt in 1996 from 'tippler' open box wagons originally built for carry iron ore to the steelworks at Ravenscraig.

VTG3077, also a rebuild by Marcroft Engineering from an open tippler wagon , is one of the later, 1977,  batch which have aluminium alloy hoods, saving weight over the steel ones used in the earlier rebuilds. They have green framing, and curved tops.

966251 is a BYA (or 'Nissen Hut') one of 260 (966201 - 260) built by Thrall Europa for EWS in 1998-99 and now owned by DB Schenker Thrall and EWS being American companies, the bogies are a typical American design. Another 50 wagons, coded BRA, 964xxx series, were built, with the same external appearance but with racks inside to carry steel bars. Some of these have been modified to BYA standard.

A particularly interesting example is this almost-new Romanian-built wagon, which uses the folding-sheet cover approach to the same problem.  These vehicles are owned by General Electric's wagon-leasing arm, and are numbered and registered for international use.

Above, a closer look at the various data inscriptions typical of an international wagon. The anchor symbol tells us it is fitted for travel on train ferries (the fittings include brackets for chaining the wagon to the deck of the ship) and 'CT' is authority to pass through the Channel Tunnel. The full number is 31 80 4667 176-0, where the 31 is an 'interoperability' code and 80 tells us it is registered in Germany, enlarged upon by the adjacent letters. The last digit is a computer check digit. Until recently only a railway organisation (DB) would have been shown, but the proliferation of companies in recent times led (from 1996) to this being prefixed by a country - based on the international car registration plate system. The type code in the UIC international system - equivalent of the TOPS code used in the UK, is Sfhimmns: the capital S is the general type 'Flat wagon with special bogies'  and the 'f' tells us it is a 'ferry wagon' suitable for Britain's smaller loading gauge. The final 's' means that the maximum speed is 100 km/h. For the rest, have a look at Wikipedia. A small superscript, 732, after the code, refers to the exact batch of wagons and is not normally needed by people making-up trains. The red circle sign insists that the wagon must not be moved with the hood open.

Rail partnership criticises 'ridiculous' funding cut  - report by George Jones
BBC News reports:

A group promoting rail travel on rural routes has criticised the withdrawal of £10,000 funding by Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) as "ridiculous".  The Chester-Shrewsbury Rail Partnership (CSRP) has helped promote and develop rail services to and from north east Wales. ATW said funds were being diverted elsewhere because of the "success of the line". CSRP said it was wrong to cut funding because the scheme had done well. Chairman Mansel Williams said the group, which works with local authorities, rail users and others, had been highly successful.  He said the cut would not leave the group "high and dry", and most of its funding came from the Wrexham, Cheshire and Shropshire councils.

Mr Williams, a Shropshire councillor, added: "We have this incredible statement from them [ATW] that it's 'job done'. "But it's absolutely not job done. We're developing all the time.  The Chester-Shrewsbury Rail Partnership has been a success story we can all be very proud of.  It's better for Wales, better for the Welsh Marches, better for the north west of England - why are they doing it?

ATW said the funding was set up to provide additional marketing and promotional support for rural lines with limited services. It said it was grateful to the rail partnership for supporting and promoting the development of services, and added: "Because of the success of the line and the fact that it has a prosperous future, Arriva Trains Wales will be diverting the funding to other routes where further improvements and support will aid their future development."  The company said it would continue working with the partnership and is "looking at options to further develop facilities and services on this line".

In my opinion the job of promoting rail lines is never "done" because they always need continual effort for drawing the public's attention to train services on offer. The service on the Shrewsbury-Chester line became so poor - train very two hours - that the public turned away from it. Now it is back to hourly - thanks to the  Welsh Assembly Government initiative - the promotion must continue to highlight what is available and encourage use of the trains which are not necessarily full at most times. It is hard work bringing people back to a transport facility and turning round perceptions of an infrequent train service.

One doesn't see much evidence of ATW promoting the line apart from publishing the Timetable. Even their promotional opportunity facility on the website omits Gobowen, Ruabon and Chirk, potentially useful stations for accessing north Shropshire, east Wales and the Dee Valley, and the omission has been drawn to their attention.

[Editor's note: We hear that ATW have also cut their contribution to the Borderlands Line CRP by half (for the second year running) and rumour has it that that they have cut funds to all their CRPs this year, so it's not clear what they mean by the statement that they "will be diverting the funding to other routes where further improvements and support will aid their future development."]

Train Travel Training
By Gerwyn Jones, Cambrian Railways Partnership

Coleg Ceredigion students recently embarked on a 'train travel training' exercise to better familiarise themselves with train travel. The event came about as part of Mencap Cymru’s Partners in Politics (PIP) project that aims to empower young people with additional learning needs to change things in their lives. The PIP team visit schools and colleges across Wales to support young people to get their voices heard and to get their concerns on the political agenda.

The event took place on 1 February and involved 10 students being shown around the Railway Station at Aberystwyth and how to buy tickets and better understand timetables. The students were also given an introduction to the benefits of travel by public transport and initiatives that have been developed to make the train travel experience more enjoyable.  However the highlight of the day, in the view of the students, was a return train journey between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth that included lunch at Machynlleth Railway Station.

Jonathan Daniel, a second year 'access to education' student at Coleg Ceredigion, said 'I’ve really enjoyed the event and it has given me the confidence to think about using the train on my own'.

One of the main concerns for young people with additional learning needs has been access to public transport in Wales. The students at Coleg Ceredigion decided to submit a petition to the National Assembly for Wales to highlight the need for increased train services in Aberystwyth but also to explain about the unique difficulties they have accessing public transport. The students produced a DVD for Assembly Members which explained their desire to use public transport but also the problems they encountered with timetables and knowing when and where to get off a train or bus.

Sian Davies, Mencap Cymru’s PIP Manager commented 'Many people with additional learning needs feel anxious about accessing public transport on their own, but the students at Coleg Ceredigion have proactively been looking to overcome some of the concerns they have. The petition they submitted to the National Assembly has made it possible for students to learn more about the transport system in Ceredigion and work in partnership with key transport organisations.'

The Chairman of the National Assembly Petition Committee approached Trafnidiaeth Canolbarth Cymru (TraCC), the local authority Regional Transport Consortium for Mid Wales.  Officers met with the students and it was agreed to look at ways to encourage the take-up of public transport amongst the students.  Chris Wilson, TraCC Co-ordinator said: 'Working together through the Cambrian Railways Partnership, we felt that a familiarisation visit would help to build confidence in using train services amongst students'.
A number of partners have worked together to arrange the event including Coleg Ceredigion, Mencap Cymru, TraCC, the Cambrian Railways Partnership and Arriva Trains Wales.

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