Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

04 June 2018

Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

Forthcoming events

June 2018

Saturday 2 June Steam on the Coast. Saphos Trains. Crewe - Holyhead and return. 46100, 34046 or 70000.

2-3 June  Llangollen Railway Heritage railcar gala

30 June Llangollen Railway Classic transport

July 2018

7-8 July North Wales N Gauge Model Railway Show, Conwy.  With 12+ layouts on show with trade support and second-hand sales. Refreshments available and full disabled access. Saturday 10:00 - 17:00, Sunday 10:00 - 16:00. Adults £4, Children £2. Ysgol Porth y Felin, Llanrwst Road, Conwy LL32 8FZ

Sunday 22 July Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company North Wales Coast Express
Liverpool - Chester - Llandudno Junction - Holyhead and return. 45690

Tuesday 24 July Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company Welsh Mountaineer Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog. 45699 or 48151: Preston - Chester - Llandudno Junction - Blaenau and return

August 2018

Saturday 4 August. Steam on the Coast. Saphos Trains.  Bangor (07.00/22.15) Llandudno Jct (07.25/21.55) Colwyn Bay (07.35/21.45) Rhyl (07.50/21.30) Prestatyn (08.00/21.20) Flint (08.10/21.10) Chester (08.30/20.50) Crewe (09.30/20.00) Stafford to Stratford-on Avon. 46100, 34046 or 70000.

September 2018

Saturday 8 September Steam at Chester Railway Touring Company Norwich - Chester. 60009: Norwich -Peterborough - Nuneaton - Chester - Peterborough

29 September Llangollen Railway Diesel gala

October 2018

12-14 October Llangollen Railway Autumn Steam gala

Friday 19 October Steam on the Coast Golden Eagle Luxury Tour (Day 5 of 12) (Provisional)  Chester - Blaenau Ffestiniog 46100: Llandudno Junction - Blaenau Ffestiniog, Holyhead - Crewe

Lord Dowding distracts the anglers at Old Colwyn,  2 June. Picture by Alan Martin.

Franchise explained

On 4 June the Welsh Government released a statement - along with the above artist's impression of a 'tri-mode' Metro train -  about the plans for the new franchise. here it is, minus the inevitable 'He said, she said' section:

Rail passengers across Wales and its borders can look forward to the transformation of their rail services thanks to a £5 billion investment that will fund significant improvements to the frequency and quality of Wales and Borders services, as well as the creation of the South Wales Metro.

Following a rigorous procurement process under the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016, First Minister Carwyn Jones today (4 June) announced the Welsh Government has contracted KeolisAmey to operate and develop the Wales and Borders rail service and South Wales Metro working in partnership with Transport for Wales. The 15-year contract will run from 4 June 2018 until 16 October 2033, with KeolisAmey taking over the Wales and Borders rail service from Arriva Trains Wales on 14 October 2018.

A joint venture partnership of international public transport operator Keolis with infrastructure asset management specialist Amey, KeolisAmey will work in partnership with Transport for Wales, running all services under the Transport for Wales brand. Transport for Wales is the not-for-profit company driving forward the Welsh Government’s vision of a high-quality, safe, integrated, affordable and accessible transport network in Wales.

The First Minister, with Transport Secretary Ken Skates, announced the new contract at a special event at the Railway Training Centre at Coleg y Cymoedd, Nantgarw, accompanied by Keolis President Jean-Pierre Farandou and Amey Chief Executive Officer Andy Milner.

The announcement comes as rail powers are devolved to the Welsh
Government.  This follows detailed discussions between the Department for
Transport and the Welsh Government. The agreement takes into account the fact that many of the rail services operate on both sides of the border between England and Wales and includes safeguards to protect all passengers using these routes.

Major benefits of the new Wales and Borders rail contract include:

An additional 600 staff will be recruited to deliver the service in a range of roles and 450 new apprenticeships (30 every year) will also be created over the life of the contract.

£1.9 billion will be invested in improving passengers’ travel experience, including an £800 million investment in trains, boosting overall service capacity by 65 per cent.

All trains will be replaced by 2023 when 95 per cent of journeys will be on brand new trains, half of which will be assembled in Wales.

£194 million will be invested to modernise all 247 stations and build four new stations: Gabalfa, Crwys Road, Loudoun Square and the Flourish.  [The first two are in north Cardiff.  Loudon Square will be an intermediate stop on the Cardiff Bay line, which will  also  be extended beyond the present Cardiff Bay station to a terminus at The Flourish, near the Millennium Centre as shown in the impression above.]

Stations will be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy, at least 50 per cent of which will be sourced in Wales.  This is just one of the ways that the new service will contribute to achieving the policy goals of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Investment in active travel initiatives will include the installation of new cycle lockers and a target to achieve Secure Station accreditation for all stations. Passengers will start to see improvements in service levels from December 2018, with increased capacity on the valleys lines and new services between Chester and Liverpool.

By the end of 2023, passengers will be able to take advantage of an additional 285 services each weekday across Wales (a 29 per cent increase).  This will include improvements to the Ebbw Vale and Wrexham – Bidston lines as well as the Cambrian and Heart of Wales lines.

Sunday services will be boosted by 61 per cent with an additional 294 services across Wales, creating a true seven-day-a-week service.

Smart ticketing will ensure that fares are more flexible and cheaper off-peak fares will be introduced including fare reductions in North Wales and at approximately 50 per cent of stations in the valleys. New technology will also help to reduce disruption and improve services.

In response to customer demand, more frequent trains, reduced journey times and more flexible fares will make travelling easier and more cost effective. Greater capacity and improved services will also help to maximise the economic development opportunities provided by the new service, enabling people to take advantage of more and better employment opportunities.
Little detail is offered about the 'South Wales Metro' except in this extract from the contribution of Jo Johnson, UK Rail Minister (brother of Boris):
'We have worked closely with the Welsh Government to secure the best deal and the new franchise will bring extra services and record investment. We are also investing £125 million to establish a new metro service connecting towns and villages across South Wales.'
It's not made clear how much of the £5 billion will come from the Government(s) and how much from KeolisAmey. Our readers will immediately note that North Wales lines get scant mention, except for a much-needed reduction of fares and a service improvement on the Borderlands route. Of the hoped-for extra stations on the Coast line at Connah's Quay, etc. with additional stopping trains as far as as Flint, or possible journey-time reductions on the Holyhead route, even its electrification, there is no hint.

The 'all trains will be replaced by 2023' aspiration, if achieved, will mean that the Class 175s, which entered service from 2000 will join hundreds of units from Greater Anglia, West Midlands and elsewhere in storage or scrapped  although potentially good for least another 10 years of use. Presumably the other 5% of journeys will be on trains transferred from elsewhere, perhaps the 319 units converted to multi-mode 369s.

The planned Chester - Liverpool service via the upgraded 'Halton Curve'  is of interest in that it does not enter Wales at all, and recently the vestigial service has been run by Northern.

As we always say, time will tell.

North Wales Coast Express

It's steam train time again, this time with the thorny, and increasingly common, problem of describing the loco, which has been renamed and renumbered, also becoming a 'Battle of Britain' sub-class rather than a 'West Country'. Actually 34046 Braunton it is now dressed up as long-scrapped 34052 Lord Dowding. It's understandable to commemorate a war hero, but why change the number as well? On the Network Rail operational database, like all main-line steam, it is a class 98: 98 746. We'll to use the painted number of locos in captions, with a short explanation when necessary.

Saturday 2 June saw Saphos Trains' North Wales Coast Express excursion run from Crewe to Holyhead and back, featuring 34052, not a common visitor to the Coast line.  Above: Crossing the canal at Chester (Jeff Albiston).

Old Colwyn (Greg Mape).

Bangor (Richard Fleckney). When this loco entered service on the Southern Railway in 1946, it looked quite different, with a flat-sided 'air-smoothed' casing. Like some others of the class it was rebuilt to the present form by British Railways, re-entering service in 1959, only to be withdrawn from traffic in 1965. Rescued from Barry Scrapyard, it was eventually returned to steam in 2007, and was certified for main line working in 2013. It is now part of the Locomotive Services fleet.

D1944 Craftsman on the rear at Bangor (Richard Fleckney).

Passing Llanfair PG (Rowan Crawshaw).  Like other signals in the Bangor area, signal BR59 has been given a new head in the modern LED style with just one 'lamp' which can show red, yellow or green as required. It acts as a 'distant' for the next signal which protects the single-line section over the Britannia bridge, and also protects the level crossing. The signaller stationed in the old signalbox has a control which holds the signal at red until the hand-worked crossing gates have been closed to road traffic. Otherwise, the signal is controlled from Bangor.

Train 1Z74 approaches Holyhead in rather dull weather, but on time (Ken Robinson).

In the sidings at Holyhead (Rhodri Williams).

D1944, formerly 47 501, is adorned with nameplates in a vaguely Great Western style, unveiled at the DRS open day in July 2016; previously, in DRS ownership the name had been in Rail Alphabet style first carried in 1987, removed in 1997 and re-applied in 2008.  'Craftsman' in this context is a British Army designation, the equivalent of a Private in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Picture by Rhodri Williams.

67 010 receiving attention in the sidings, whilst D1944 has completed quite a few shunting moves, and is by now at the rear of the train - and the sun came out to play (Ken Robinson).

34052, having turned around at Valley, is positioned at the front of the train ready to form 1Z76 back to Crewe.

Llanddulas (Greg Mape).

Passing Roodee Junction, Chester (Anthony Thomas).

Passing the quaintly-named Promised Land Lane, near Waverton on the Chester - Crewe line (Jeff Albiston).

Class 56 on the Coast

On 1 June 56 105 and 56 078 top-and-tailed ballast train 6C20, 17:55 Crewe Basford Hall - Crewe Basford Hall via Holyhead ...

...  Peter Lloyd photographed the train at Llandudno Junction.

Arriving in the down loop, to pick up a Network Rail operative, at 20:46, 56105 leading.

Departing at 20:47, 56 078 trailing, with a wave to the signalman from the driver (Jim Johnson).

Waen Crossing, Conwy (Gwion Clark).

Looking back - Class 37/4

37 414 Cathays C & W Works emerges from Christleton Tunnel shortly after leaving Chester for Crewe on 13 June 1996. The line here has been flooded a number of times in the past; work carried out in 2014 is said to have solved this problem. The tunnel, which carries the line at a very acute angle under the Shropshire Union Canal, will be a challenge to the planners of future electrification schemes, as there is little room for overhead wires.

In the last issue we discussed the 'Mainline' livery once carried by some 37/4s. This very interesting picture by Tony Martin from the Manchester Locomotive Society photograph collection shows 37 420 The Scottish Hosteller and 37 405 Strathclyde Region on 29 October 1993 taking 12 empty ICI hopper wagons towards Buxton on the Hindlow branch, the highest point on Network Rail's English network. It's clear that the lower panels are the creamy 'Executive Light Grey' - the white colour seen in our earlier picture must be an aberration, possibly a depot repaint after some damage.

Quarrying of limestone at Hindlow ceased in 1988 (although it continues at nearby Dowlow, but the processing plant at Hindlow still operates using stone railed from Tunstead quarry. Both locos later found themselves on North Wales passenger trains, although 37 405 only stayed for a few months and never received the Regional Railways livery. 37 405 is still at work today, with DRS.

Llangollen DMU gala

Some views from the Diesel Multiple Unit event on the Llangollen Railway, Saturday 2 June. Above,  the railway's Class 104 forms the 12:12 Carrog to Corwen East shuttle - with a Chester destination it may once have had (George Jones).

This year's visitor was a Class 110 unit from the East Lancashire Railway, seen at Berwyn (Dave Sallery). These were a later version of the Class 104, both built by the Birmingham Carriage and Wagon Company. Their original territory was the Calder Valley line, for which they were given more powerful engines..

The driver's office on the 110.

The interior is a contrast with the 104 - less wood more vinyl, or whatever it was they used in 1961 (George Jones).

Contrast at Carrog - 109 vs. 110 at 14:05 - The 110 waits to go forward to Corwen East at 14:12 (George Jones). The 110 displayed a sign 'NC X' in the window of the down-side facing driver's cab - this was to indicate no electrical connection at that end with the jumper cables when coupled up with another unit, as it was with the 104 for first down train of the day

The 110 on the return 14:57 Corwen shuttle seen approaching the site of the former Bonwm halt - trains make a close contrast here with the A5 road traffic.

The only surviving Class 109 Wickham unit (Dave Sallery).

The hybrid 108/127 unit at Llangollen (Dave Sallery).

Its partner 51618 displaying its fresh green paintwork following bodywork to sides and front (George Jones).

the 110 displayed  a sign NC X in the window of downside facing driver's cab - this was to indicate no electrical connection at that end with the jumper cables when coupled up with another unit, as it was with the 104 for first down train of the day

Chester Quirks

We have mentioned in the past that because of the algorithm used to generate the printed departure list  posters, those at Chester did not show most of the direct services to Manchester Airport, except the 03:34 and 18:50, on the basis that it was quicker to change at Crewe - ignoring the fact that passengers using this route would need to move themselves and their luggage across from platform 9 to platform 1. In April 2018 reader David Alison wrote - not foe the first time - to Arriva about this, and a month later actually received a reply:
Thank you for contacting us about our information boards at Chester Station. I can see for the details of the journey you provided there are only a few direct services from Chester to Manchester Airport. I can appreciate this may be a more beneficial journey for some. All information is displayed on our website for our customers to access. However I have forwarded your feedback to the relevant management team at Chester to investigate this issue further to see if anything can be done about the information boards displayed. We really appreciate you taking the time to get in touch with us and if you have any further queries please don't hesitate to get In touch.
As shown above, this situation has been remedied in the printouts for the May 2018 timetable, which does show all the through trains, along with the Virgin/Northern method which gives an even 30-minute frequency for anyone happy to change, at least until the afternoon when ATW trains are still not allowed to run beyond Manchester Piccadilly. The Northern trains from Crewe now continue beyond the Airport, after reversal to Liverpool, and have been caught up in the shambolic operation that is Northern since 2018, so are probably best avoided.

Whether this information improvement is the result of action by ATW customer services, or an incidental effect due to the change in Northern's train times, we cannot say.

Another 'feature' which we have mentioned in the past is the manner in which the ticket machines at Chester do their best to dissuade people from travelling on their trains to Manchester.  All that has happened since we first raise this with the staff is that a paper notice has been stuck on the machines telling users to choose the one of the three options which has only a full stop as description and is usable on any of the three possible routes. How difficult can it be to fix this?

More paper engineering, which has been going on for some time as the state of the notice suggests. Even a relatively close destination such as Port Sunlight has a cheapest return fare of £5.80 unless you have a railcard. Apparently 'NORTH WIRRAL LINES' (or is it 'NORTHWIRRALLINES) is a shortening of 'Merseyrail Northern and Wirral Lines.' 'Northern' in this context is nothing to do with the Liverpool suburban line operated by the Northern train company - that is the 'City Line.'

The National Rail website has no paper stickers, and does not mention this option, although it does give an option to buy a Cheshire Day Ranger at the bargain price of 'from £23.80'.  What's all this about simplification of ticketing?

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