Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

07 February 2011

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Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

This site is dedicated to all our regular contributors and supporters, and especially the all rail staff of North Wales.

Poem found on a café window

All of the staff, men and women too
We were the company's chosen few
Picked from the many that did apply
Our skills in the past the reason why

To deliver a service that would be second to none
From Wrexham to London we were the one
We gave a First Class service to all on our train
You could relax whilst we took the strain

For nearly three years each way we did go
Whatever the weather be rain wind and snow
You sat back relaxed and enjoyed the ride
Looked after by a crew so full of pride

A first class service we delivered to you
With fresh cooked meals and beverages too
With friendly service and a positive smile
We attempted to go the extra mile

Our passenger focus made is the best
Attaining ninety nine percent, beating the rest
But try as we might we could do no more
Forcing the company to close its own door.

2008 - 2011
Wrexham and Shropshire you were the best
This is dedicated to all the fine staff that worked for the best ever rail company

For the signs and sounds, here is a link to one of the many videos made by enthusiasts on the last day.

Forthcoming events

February 2011

Thursday 10 February  Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society "Arriva Trains Wales 2011 - The Way Forward" - Ben Davies, ATW Stakeholder Manager.

Friday 11 February  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society
RED SEA RAILWAY - THE RAILWAYS OF ERITREA a PowerPoint presentation by Jennie Street (author "Red Sea Railway")

Monday 21 February  RCTS Chester MEMBERS SHOW 30 slides or digital images of your choice.  

Thursday 24 February Merseyside Railway History Group Allan Lewis: Norfolk & Western

March 2011

Friday 4 March   Clwyd Railway Circle  AGM followed by Photo Competition and Members Night. Members are invited to give a 15 minute presentation of their choice, any format welcomed. Please book your slot no later than 18th February by contacting David Jones (see below for details).          

Monday 7 March  RCTS Port Sunlight   John Day will give a digital presentation on 21st Century Steam featuring steam in the UK, USA, China and the Ukraine.

10 March    Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society   The last months of the Routemasters  with Dr John Willis and 'Society tribute to the late Bill Rear' by Bob Barnsdale and Larry Davies

Friday 11 March  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society STEAM AROUND CHESTER FROM THE 1960s ONWARDS a colour slide presentation by John Feild

Monday 21 March   RCTS Chester Paul Chancellor FROM BLUE AND GREY TO BLACK AND GREEN. Paul from Colour-Rail presents slides illustrating the wide variety of liveries that have adorned British steam, diesel and electric locomotives over the past 60 years.

Thursday 31 March Merseyside Railway History Group AGM: Members Slides

April 2011

Friday 1 April   Clwyd Railway Circle    Geoff Morris: The Railways of South-West Wales over the last 30 years. A photographic journey looking at the railway scene in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and West Glamorgan, an area often neglected by the railway enthusiast.  We visit far-flung outposts of the passenger system (Fishguard Harbour, Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Central Wales line) and also meet some unusual diesels (cut-down classes 03 & 08) on the way.                 

Monday 4 April RCTS Port Sunlight   BRANCH AGM (Members Only) Followed by Members' Photographs. 

Friday 8 April  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society
illustrated presentation by Graham Nicholas (A1 Steam Locomotive Trust)

Thursday 14 April   Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society "Cardiff Canton Diesel Depot”  Steve Morris

Monday 18 April   RCTS Chester Geoff Morris: ANOTHER AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE. A digital presentation of Geoff’s 2010 visit to Australia featuring main line & preserved steam in Victoria, New South Wales & Queensland plus views of the modern scene and the odd kangaroo!

Thursday 28 April Merseyside Railway History Group Richard Kells: Quiz and informal evening

See the Calendar page for more details and later dates.


The end of Wrexham & Shropshire

It was Tuesday 25 January when the BBC reported that Wrexham & Shropshire was closing down, and the next morning at 09:00 came the official press release, reproduced lower down this page.  Whilst the recent 'use it or lose it' pleas from the W&S management, and the reduction in service frequency in December were a bad omen, the remarkably sudden closure, only possible in the case of an 'Open Access' operation, took most people by surprise, although it was probably better than a demoralised last few weeks. Arrangements were made for passengers with advance tickets to use other companies' trains.

The last public trains were the afternoon Wrexham - London service and the 18:30 London - Wrexham on Friday 28 January. We tell their story below. So what happens next? The silver Class 67 locomotives return to general use by DB Schenker - and it may be no coincidence that some Arriva Trains Wales drivers have recently been training on Class 67s. The coaches are owned by DB Regio. Some will be used on the company;s Chiltern Trains operations; the company denies that any are to be used by Arriva Trains Wales (also owned by DB of course) but it would be very easy for a push-pull worked train like the W&S rakes to reverse at Chester to serve Wrexham on the way from Holyhead to Cardiff...

The penultimate day - report by Larry Davies

I was at Wrexham on 27 January when the lunchtime service arrived and departed.  It was quite sad there talking to the staff and you really got the feel it was a family and that twenty four hours more and they would all go their separate ways. 

The train arrived from London with its horn blowing a mournful hoot all the way from Croes Newydd signalbox to entering the station, and then it was staff hugging each other and it left for London in silence with new crew.

One girl said to me 'the next time I'll see them is probably in the Job Centre.' There was a poignant message in the Café window (left). Another chapter closes.

Ruabon 27 January - pictures by David Parry

The penultimate day of service, 27 February, saw an EWS-liveried loco, 67 001, working the 07:23 Wrexham - London, seen above entering Ruabon station.

Later the same day, 67 012 A Shropshire Lad arrives at Ruabon, leading the 13:28 Wrexham to Marylebone.

Requiem for W & S - by Ian Pilkington

Three shots taken on Friday 28 January, a sad day for railways in North Wales. Above, the 09:20 Marylebone - Wrexham approaching Ruabon, with 67 013 Dyfrbont Pontcysyllte at the rear. This same loco then worked the last train to London and the last return.

The 1328 Wrexham - Marylebone arriving at Gobowen watched by the signalman in the 1884 vintage Gobowen North Box. 67 013 is now carrying the WSMR headboard. 

13:28 Wrexham - Marylebone leaves Gobowen.

The Fateful Press Release - for the record

Local train company Wrexham & Shropshire today announced that, following an investigation into all possible alternatives, the company will cease operations on Friday 28th January 2011.

The organisation cited the unprecedented economic environment as a contributing factor and although the company has strived to increase passenger numbers, it has been determined that the business has no prospect of reaching profitability.  Wrexham & Shropshire is not insolvent nor is it being placed in administration and all outstanding financial commitments will be met.  Alternative employment opportunities within the railway industry are being sought for the 55 employees, and all staff wages and full redundancy entitlements will be paid.

The company has undertaken a series of activities in an attempt to move the business into profit.  In 2009 the original service of five trains per day was reduced to four.  This was followed in December 2010 when two lightly used services were combined to reduce the service to three trains per day.  In addition, an agreement was reached with sister company Chiltern Railways to assist with their capacity and the company investigated opportunities for operational and management synergy between Wrexham & Shropshire and Arriva Trains Wales, also owned by DB.  The opportunity to generate income by serving Wolverhampton, after April 2012 when contractual restrictions are expected to be removed, was also considered.

Chairman Adrian Shooter, CBE explained: "Regrettably, we have concluded that the potential for further changes to the company's operations, including any synergy with Arriva Trains Wales, will not improve the financial position sufficiently.  The shareholders have invested in excess of £13m in launching the business and funding its losses, and have now concluded that there is no reasonable prospect that Wrexham & Shropshire can become profitable, or offer a return on this investment."

Wrexham & Shropshire launched in April 2008, restoring direct train services between Wrexham, Shropshire and London. The company quickly developed a reputation for excellence in customer service, which was rewarded in autumn 2010 with a 99% customer satisfaction score in the benchmark National Passenger Survey. Despite strong growth in passenger numbers, the business has not been able to generate sufficient revenues to cover more than 65% of the cost of operating the service and in 2010 alone suffered losses of £2.9 million.

Chairman Adrian Shooter said: "Even though we are forced to close the business, we remain extremely proud of what we have achieved with Wrexham & Shropshire; with many stating that we set the standard for all other train companies to follow. I would like to pay tribute to Andy Hamilton, Managing Director, and everyone in the Wrexham & Shropshire team. Our people are the best in the business and have set the standard for others to follow."

The company also expressed gratitude to the local community for their support of the business including the many volunteers who gave up their time to hand out flyers and those individuals and organisations who have worked to encourage people to use the service.

The last train to depart will be the 1830 train from London Marylebone to Wrexham General on Friday 28th January 2011. From Saturday 29th January, all Wrexham & Shropshire tickets already purchased will be valid on alternative routes into London Euston operated by Arriva Trains Wales, London Midland and Virgin Trains, and from London Marylebone by Chiltern Railways.

Last train to London - report by George Jones

There was a magnificent turnout for the running of the last W&S train to London Marylebone on 28 January. The train was strengthened to five coaches and all were needed for the numbers who got on at Wrexham and Gobowen. Whilst some of us had to 'bail out' at Shrewsbury others joined, and all stations had a crowd out to see the train off - never has such a short-lived service seen such a send-off with most disappointed with the decision to cease operations.

Managing Director Andy Hamilton was on board to be greeted by many, and he took time out to speak to people and explain the hard decision.
The picture (above) shows 67 013 departing Shrewsbury carrying the WSMR headboard.
This was a train operation that brought a lot of excitement, interest and fun to Wrexham and  the Shrewsbury - Chester line over the past three years from the initial build up, through the memorable opening day in April 2008, and the variety of train sets and locomotives used since then, as well as a standard of service out of the norm for modern day travel.

Last day thoughts - by Mark Riley

On the final day of W&S services, DVT 82301 leads 1J83 09:24 from London Marylebone into Wrexham General, watched by many enthusiasts and commuters alike, plus the usual press coverage.

Somewhat ironically, in nearly three years of the trains running, I personally have never seen such a huge volume of passengers for a W&S service train at Wrexham! Above, 67 013 waits at Platform 3 for the very last departure of a W&S train to Marylebone.

The story of the company's demise made the front page of the Wrexham Leader. After so much work by so many people over many years to bring direct trains to London back to Wrexham, it is a shock to see the end come so quickly. It helped the regeneration of Wrexham General and the local economy. Undoubtedly, it is also the short three-day notice of services ending that has distressed so many people. Hopefully all the staff will find gainful employment soon. However they should be proud that they can add to their CVs that they once worked for the best train operator that has ever existed.

Wrexham General, 28 January (Dave Sallery)

How could it happen? An editorial view

There is no doubt that W&S provided a service that was appreciated by lovers of train travel, including your website compiler, but really it was operating under so many restrictions that it was bound to struggle to achieve the profit without subsidy that such enterprises must make. The extended journey time, partly due to unsuitable train paths in the early days, was a deterrent for many people, and the introduction of the Virgin Trains service creaming off Wrexham passengers was no help.

There are other 'open access' operations in Britain - Hull Trains and Grand Central - which have last longer, but they both operate on the 125 mph East Coast Main Line, and are permitted to pick up London passengers at intermediate stations closer to London, such as York and Doncaster, that the towns and cities at the extremities of their routes. The ticket revenue from these stops, boosted by their share of the East Coast train company's income apportioned by the computer system, helps to subsidise their operation. (Even so, we'd suggest taking a ride on Grand Central fairly soon.)  Wrexham & Shropshire, on the other hand, were prevented by a 'Moderation of Competition' clause in Virgin Trains' franchise contract from carrying London passengers at Wolverhampton or Birmingham. In addition, a lot of money was spent on creating the luxury trains, when the original proposal had been to use diesel railcars, thwarted because there were none available.

You might say that a service with 95% passenger satisfaction rating should not be allowed to fail, but that is the world of 'Open Access ' as introduced at the time or privatisation. Anyone who thinks they can open up a new traffic and can convince the mandarins that they are not stealing it from someone else, and are a suitable company to operate trains, can have a go at their own financial risk. Renaissance Trains, a company founded by ex-BR managers and started Hull Trains, owns (according to their somewhat out-of-date website) a 36% share in W&S; German nationalised railway Deutsche Bahn 50%, and Laing Rail, the original major shareholder, 14%. So the German taxpayer has been subsidising those nice but loss-making trains to Wrexham, not something which could really continue.

A railfan's finale - report by Richard Billingsley

I attended Wrexham & Shropshire's last train on Friday 28 January, joining 1J84 at Wellington (above) for the run back to Wrexham. Everywhere we called, the platforms were busy with people coming to see the passing of the train, which itself, despite the extra coach, was heaving!

The majority of the staff were on board, there were many congratulations and commiserations, and more than a few tears...

From a personal point of view, I'll miss it tremendously, being a fairly regular passenger. Nothing better than sitting back in a nice comfy mk3, with a fresh bacon butty and tea. Just isn't the same on a Voyager or a Scud...

Thanks are due to everyone involved with the operation, the service on board was unbeatable, and they were all genuinely nice people. Good luck to them all with finding a new employer, and I hope we may yet still see a few familiar faces on the rails here. I can't help but think that the rails of North Wales became just a little duller late on Friday night.

The human side - pictures by Richard W. Jones

Richard travelled on the last 'up' and 'down' trains on 28 January. Above, London-bound 1P03 heads south through a Shropshire sunrise.

On board.

Having arrived at Marylebone with the 1P03 from Wrexham General, the driver shakes the passengers' hands.

Wrexham & Shropshire staff gather round 67 013 at Marylebone prior to leaving with the 1J84 back to Wrexham.

Managing Director Andy Hamilton leaves one of 'his' trains at Banbury for the last time.

The W&S atmosphere ...

... thanks and best wishes for the future to all W&S people.

(Larger views and more like this on Richard's Flickr site)

Last of all:  empty stock train 5P03

The morning of Saturday 29 January dawned with two trains in the bays at Wrexham General. Nearest the camera is 67 012 A Shropshire Lad and DVT 82303 with set 3, and behind, with a 5 coach formation, is DVT 82301 and 67 013 at the far end.  (Picture by Derick Norman) We wonder what will become of the servicing area here: a lot of money (some of it from the Welsh Government) was spent on creating this facility at Wrexham General, and actually enabled services to operate out of Wrexham when the original idea to run beyond Wrexham to Chester was blocked by the lack of train paths over the single line.

Later, 67 013 hauled its coaches out of the bay and into Croes Newydd loop where the two sets were to join up to form an empty-stock train to Wembley depot (Mark Riley)

On the loop at Croes Newydd, DVT 82303 with set 3 approaches DVT 82301. In the foreground is Driver Steve Roast of Wembley depot, ensuring that coupling is completed safely. Picture by Mark Riley, who writes: 'I am indebted to Mr Roast who has often supplied me with snippets of background information on the W&S trains over the past two years, so would like to thank him for taking the time to do so.'

Mark Riley's  last view of the final formation. Some of the observers thought the train would just move off the loop and head south, others that it would run north to Crewe, but in fact it set back into Wrexham General station before departing south.

The two Driving Van Trailers nose-to-nose (Derick Norman)

Ready for the final departure from Wrexham (Derick Norman)

Derick Norman was privileged to be offered a cab ride for this sad last run.

Approaching Shrewsbury (Derick Norman)

The train snakes into Shrewsbury station (Ben Williams)

The view from the cab in Shrewsbury station, waiting for the road as a coal train takes the avoiding line (Derick Norman)

The welcoming committee at Telford Central [good to seem them keeping well away from the platform edge] (Derick Norman)

One of the resulting pictures (Ben Williams)

Signs of the times at Wrexham

Posters at Wrexham: left, a Virgin Trains poster which they were quick to put up to promote their one a day train (Mondays-Fridays), Right: details of the alternative arrangements for ticket holders from 28 January 2011, offering routes via Chester or via Wolverhampton. (George Jones)

This headboard was made for the start of service in 2008: '84L' is someone's idea of the British Railways shed code for the depot at Wrexham, had that concept still been in use. WSMR stands for 'Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway', the full name of the company, which was shortened to Wrexham & Shropshire as a trading name.

The W&S website's sad homepage.

We understand that a meeting for W&S staff was held at Wrexham Ramada Plaza hotel on on 25 January at which representatives from London Midland, Arriva Trains Wales, Virgin Trains and Chiltern Railways were present to discuss employment options. Lets hope it bears fruit.

Best wishes for the future, and thanks from all our contributors to everyone on the Wrexham & Shropshire team. Nobody could have done it better.

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