THE NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:  TRAFFIC

Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru Traffic

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Last update: July 2021

This page is mainly intended for railfans and others interested in trains:
For general timetable information please see our Travel Information section.

Passenger | Freight


For information:  National Rail Guidelines for Railway Enthusiasts

PASSENGER TRAINS


1. Chester - Holyhead and branches
Transport for Wales operate most passenger services along the North Wales coast line. Their trunk route services are worked by railcars, usually of Class 158 or 175, with single-car 153s  on the Llandudno - Blaenau Ffestiniog line and two-car 150s on the Wrexham - Bidston branch.  Occasionally 150s appear on main line services, sometimes with a 150 attached. Trains running to and from Birmingham are generally Class 158-operated; 175s are rarely seen east of Shrewsbury.

All the services above, except the Wrexham - Bidston branch will eventually be worked by new Class 197s.

One exception  to the rule of railcars is the 'One Wales Express' or 'Y Gerallt Gymro' ('Gerald of Wales') which runs from Holyhead (dep 05:33) to Cardiff Central and back (dep 17:16) once each day Mondays - Fridays. This is formed of four passenger coaches, including a buffet / restaurant car, and since 2012 has operated on the 'push-pull' principle with a Class 67 loco at one end and a Driving Van Trailer at the other.  This service ceased to during the  Covid outbreak, but re-started in June 2021 using Mk4 coaches and driving van trailers 'cascaded' from LNER. 



Two further loco-hauled diagrams on the Holyhead - Cardiff axis began in September 2021, as below:

Diagram 1
1V91 05:33 Holyhead - Cardiff Central 09:58
1W93 11:22 Cardiff Central - Holyhead 16:19
1626 1V98 16:36 Holyhead - Cardiff Central 2128

Diagram 2
1W91 06:45 Cardiff Central - Holyhead 11:20
1V96 11: 33 Holyhead - Cardiff Central 16:15
1W96 17:16 Cardiff Central - Holyhead 21:37


TfW have puchased further LNER coaches, and plan to also operate loco-hauled trains on the Manchester - South Wales route, but the starting date for this is not until 2013.

Also to be seen from summer 2021 are trial and training runs of the new Class 197 diesel units, which are to replace all the 30-year-old 158s and 20-year-old 175s.

Avanti West Coast
All Avanti  West Coast services in North Wales, which run to/from London or points on that route,  are worked by Class 221 'Voyager' diesel railcars inherited from Virgin Trains.


2. The Cambrian lines and Shrewsbury - Wrexham - Chester
The lines west of Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli currently have no freight service, and the routine passenger trains are always TfW Class 158s, maintained at Machynlleth depot and equipped with the Radio Electronic Token Block signalling in use on the Cambrian system. There are, however, special trains from time to time: watch our Calendar page for details.

Steam trains are not now allowed on the Cambrian lines as they cannot work with the 'ERTMS' signalling now installed. Engineering trains and railtours require the Cass 97/3 locos, converted from old Class 37s, which are fitted with the ERTMS equipment.  On-track plant such as tampers have to be piloted by a 97/3 to reach points on the Cambrian.

The Shrewsbury - Chester via Wrexham line sees greater variety, Arriva Trains Wales services being a mixture of Classes 175 and 158 with the occasional 150 or even 153, as well as the loco-hauled services (see above)

Avanti West Coast serve Wrexham General with one through train (dep:07:03) to London on Monday-Friday mornings and one return (dep 18:10) in the evenings. The Class 221 Voyager attaches to another from Holyhead at Chester, and detaches at Chester in the evening.   (The Wrexham portion runs empty from Crewe in the morning and to Crewe in the evening.

See the links on our Travel Information page for more about passenger timetables.


3. The Branch Lines

The 'Borderlands' service between Wrexham and Bidston is home to Class 150 two-car DMUs but will be handed over, perhaps in 2022, to the five Class 230 sets, rebuilt from London Underground stock by the Vivarail company.  These are 'hybrid'  units with electric traction motors powered by batteries, and a diesel engine which charges the batteries automatically.  Test and training runs began in 2021.  The 230s are based at Merseyrail's Birkenhead North depot, reached by venturing on to the Merseyrail system beyond Bidston.

The Conwy Valley service from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog is maintained by a Class 153 single-car diesel railcar in winter and a 2-car 150 in summer; it was originally announced that the 230s would work there too, but the Borderlands service is to be increased from hourly to half-hourly which will require four units.


FREIGHT TRAINS


There are no freight services at all on the North Wales Coast line at the moment (JUly 2020), although there are plans of new flows in the future.

December 2008 saw the end of the long-standing railway ballast stone traffic from Hanson’s Penmaenmawr quarry, due to the loss of the Network Rail contract.   This is planned to re-start, perhaps late in 2021,  worked by GB Railfreight.

The nuclear flask traffic serving Wylfa power station ceased in 2019 with the completion of the de-fuelling process - very occasional trains run to retain train crew knowledge. 

A new flow, which appears to be slow getting started, is of slate waste, brought by road from Penrhyn quarry to from a revived goods yard at Llandudno Junction to be transported cement works at Hope in the Peak District as an additive to their cement, replacing the ash from power stations previously used, as there are no longer any col-fired power stations operating.

To see freight trains you need to go to Chester, or the high-level line at Shotton.

Trains bring logs from the Carlisle area to the timber products factory at Chirk on the Chester - Wrexham - Shrewsbury line are  run by Colas Rail  and run via Warrington Bank Quay, Helsby and Chester.

6J37 13:27 Carlisle - Chirk : passes Chester c.18:35 Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
6C37 23:07 Chirk - Carlisle

There is no crossover at Chirk: after unloading, trains continue to Gobowen for the locomotive to run round.

Occasional log trains have also run to Chirk from Baglan Bay in South Wales.

Over the Top

On Thursdays ( when required) , DB Cargo deliver coal in MEA box wagons from Warrington to Penyffordd Cement Works (on the Wrexham–Bidston line – the loco runs round the train at Croes Newydd, Wrexham) in the early morning. The return is 6E41 14:57 Penyffordd–Healey Mills, passing Chester at around 18:10. 

The year 2020 saw cement leaving the works again by train, using newly-created loading facilities. This flow is in the hands of GB Railfreight; trains run to Avonmouth as required, up to three times per week, returning empty the following day. Services to other teminals are proposed.

In addition to the above, steel traffic from South Wales to Dee Marsh Junction (one mile north of Shotton) can be seen using the 'top line' (Wrexham–Bidston) which crosses the Coast line at Shotton station.  The normal daytime trains are listed below, but it should be noted that in they running on an 'as required' basis.

Mondays - Fridays:

6V75 09:30 Dee Marsh - Margam (passes Wrexham 10:00)
6M86 13:13 Llanwern - Dee Marsh (passes Wrexham 17:35)

Saturdays:

6V75 09:30 Dee Marsh - Margam (passes Wrexham 10:00)
6M88 07:04 Llanwern - Dee Marsh (passes Wrexham 13:35 )
6V90 15:34 Dee Marsh - Margam (passes Wrexham 16:05)

Sundays:

10:08 6M24 Llanwern - Dee Marsh (Passes Wrexham 14:05)
15:35 6V47 Dee Marsh - Llanwern (passes Wrexham 16:15)
11:02 6M30 Margam - Dee Marsh (passes Wrexham 17:05)


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