Last update: November 2013
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 Class 197
. Occasionally 150s or pairs of 153s
appear on main line services. Trains running to and from
Birmingham are generally Class 158-operated. The Class 175 units
which worked our lines from 2000 have now all been withdrawn by
Also to be seen from summer 2021 are trial, training and
mileage accumulation of the new Class 197 diesel units, which are
eventually to replace all the 30-year-old 158s and
An 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
The December 2022 timetable introduced further loco-worked
services, on the Manchester - South Wales axis, made possible by
the purchase of further Mk4 coaches, from Grand Central who
refurbished a fleet of LNER coaches for a London - Blackpool
service, which never started due to the Covid upheaval.
Initilially they worked the Holyead-Cardiff services, but at the
time of writing they work on the Manchester - Cardiff axis.
The Monday-Friday loco-hauled diagrams are below, with thanks
to the Railtour
website. However, in practice, some of the
workings are subsutited by by other stock.
1V91 05:33 Holyhead - Cardiff Central (a.09:59)
1W57 10:52 Cardiff Central - Manchester Piccadilly (a.14:15)
1V46 14:30 Manchester Piccadilly - Cardiff Central (a.17:43)
1W65 18:55 Cardiff Central - Manchester Piccadilly (a.22:27)
1W13 05:36 Swansea - Manchester Piccadilly
1V39 10:30 Manchester Piccadilly - Cardiff Central (a.13:42)
1W61 14:49 Cardiff Central - Manchester Piccadilly (a.18:14)
1V62 18:30 Manchester Piccadilly - Cardiff Central (a.21:55)
1V31 04:54 Crewe - Cardiff Central (a.07:47)
1W55 08:49 Cardiff Central - Manchester Piccadilly (a.12:15)
1V42 12:30 Manchester Piccadilly - Cardiff Central (a.15:44)
1W23 16:49 Cardiff Central - Manchester Piccadilly (a.20:15)
1V33 06:26 Manchester Piccadilly - Cardiff Central (a.09:56)
1W93 11:25 Cardiff Central - Holyhead (a.16:19)
1V98 16:34 Holyhead - Cardiff Central (a.21:28)
1W91 06:48 Cardiff Central - Holyhead (a.11:18)
1V96 11:33 Holyhead - Cardiff Central (a.16:18)
1W96 17:14 Cardiff Central - Holyhead (a.21:41)
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,
although replacements in the form of Hitachi class 805 bi-mode
trains began test running in Autumn 2023.
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
Steam trains are not now allowed on the Cambrian lines as they
cannot work with the 'ERTMS' signalling now installed. Engineering
trains, freight trains and railtours require the Class 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.
In 2023 a freight train, carrying logs from Aberystwyth to Chirk,
began operation, the first freight traffic for many years. This is
worked by Colas Rail: From Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury haulage is by
a 97/3 piloting a class 37, then a Class 56 onward.
The Shrewsbury - Chester via Wrexham line sees greater variety,
Arriva Trains Wales services being a mixture of Classes 158, 150
or 153, as well as the loco-hauled services (see above)
Avanti West Coast serve Wrexham General with one through train to
London on Monday-Friday mornings and one return 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. Unfortunately, these units have proved very
unreliable in service, and often unable to keep to the timetable.
The Conwy Valley service from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog has
for some years been maintained by a Class 153 single-car
diesel railcar in winter and a 2-car 150 in summer; it was
announced that the 230s would work there too, but this never
happened and a Class 197 works all day.
The Borderlands service is now proposed to be increased from
hourly to a 45-minute frequency from the December 2023.
There were no freight services at all on the North Wales Coast in
July 2020, but from 2022 the situation dramatically,
although Autumn 2023 saw some of the services listed below
suspended, for unkown reasons, presunably temorarily,
December 2008 had seen the end of the long-standing railway
ballast stone traffic from Hanson’s Penmaenmawr quarry, due to the
loss of the Network Rail contract, but from 2022 a regular service
has operated for the Hanson company, operated by GB Railfreight
class 66 loco and another from Penmaenmawr to Longport worked by
Freightliner Class 70s.
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.
Another new flow, which was 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
few coal-fired power stations operating. The first train ran on 3
August 2022, but the destination was a cement works near Bedford.
To see more 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
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 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.
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)
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)
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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