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Geographical representation of the Wrexham & Shropshire route


Wrexham & Shropshire is the operating name of the Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway Company, a train operating company in the United Kingdommarker. The company operates passenger train services from Wrexhammarker (in North Walesmarker) via Shropshiremarker to Londonmarker on an open-access basis, with its agreement for a seven year period from December 2007. Wrexham & Shropshire began running services on 28 April 2008.

The main purpose of the company is to restore direct services between London and Shropshire; the previous services operated by Virgin Trains were withdrawn in 2000.

Services

Route

From Wrexham Generalmarker, the route runs via Chirkmarker, Ruabonmarker and Gobowenmarker (near Oswestrymarker) to Shrewsburymarker, then via Wellingtonmarker, Telford Centralmarker and Cosfordmarker to Wolverhamptonmarker. From Wolverhampton, the service has the major obstacle of Birminghammarker to circumvent: it is routed via and calls at Tame Bridge Parkwaymarker. Services then continue via New Street and Tyseley or Birmingham Internationalmarker and Coventrymarker, before joining the Chiltern Main Line at Leamington Spamarker. Trains then call at Banburymarker and finally London Marylebonemarker.

Under the terms of Wrexham & Shropshire's Track Access Contract, trains are not permitted to call at Coventry or Leamington Spa. However, the agreement does allow for WSMR trains to serve Birmingham International, but the company's timetable does not include this. However, services do call at Tame Bridge Parkwaymarker, a station with a substantial car park and good bus services, with the additional benefit of providing Walsallmarker with a direct service to London.

From 13 December 2009 trains will call unrestricted at both Banbury and Leamington Spa.

Timetable

Wrexham & Shropshire's initial timetable was for five trains per weekday between Wrexham and London, which since the introduction of its revised Winter timetable in December 2008 sees a total journey time of around 4 hours weekdays. Journey times are acknowledged to be longer than the company would like but changes in timetabling and track slots have meant the reduction of 30 minutes in the journey from prior to December 2008 . Between Aynho Junction and Princes Risborough the WSMR trains are subject to lower differential speed restrictions that do not affect the Chiltern Railways DMUs. The most severe restriction is between Bicester North and Princes Risborough where WSMR trains are limited to only 60mph (compared to 100mph for Class 168 DMUs). WSMR trains must share tracks with the intensive Chiltern Railways service and there are few overtaking opportunities. Schedules over the 68.7 mile route from Marylebone to Banbury are slow, typically 71 to 74 minutes.

In March 2009 The weekday service was reduced to four trains a day, one of which only runs between Marylebone and Shrewsbury. WSMR blamed the economic downturn and a lack of patronage for the cancelled services (10.17 from Marylebone and 17.23 from Wrexham). WSMR have said that they hope to re-instate the services as soon as possible, and no staff have been cut. The fourth service will be extended to Wrexham General from December 2009.

In the long term, the company is aiming to reduce journey times as follows:
  • London to Tame Bridge Parkway: 2 hours
  • London to Telford Central: 2 hours 35 minutes
  • London to Shrewsbury: 2 hours 50 minutes
  • London to Wrexham: 3 hours 30 minutes


Restrictions on services

WSMR's original proposal was to commence operations by summer 2007, but plans were delayed because of a "moderation of competition" protection clause in Virgin Trains' West Coast franchise agreement. Unless Virgin were willing to give their agreement to WSMR services calling at Wolverhampton, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said they would have to reject the WSMR proposals. A revised Track Access Application was submitted, which was subsequently approved by the ORR. Under the amended proposals, WSMR trains call at Wolverhamptonmarker only to pick up passengers northbound, and set down southbound. To offset the reduction in potential passengers, services call additionally at Tame Bridge Parkway.

Similarly to Wolverhampton, at Banbury southbound trains set down passengers only and northbound trains pick up only. At both stations, there are already services to London provided by other operators.

Rival service

In February 2008, Virgin Trains announced that they would also begin services between London and Wrexham on a trial basis from December 2008, with one train per day on weekdays in each direction. Should the service prove successful, Virgin plan to introduce more services during the week and at weekends. Virgin's services will operate from London Eustonmarker along the West Coast Main Linemarker via Crewemarker and Chestermarker using Class 221 SuperVoyager trains, with a journey time to Wrexham of approximately 2½ hours - compared with WSMR's average of 4 hours. However, as this will be an extension of the London-Chester service it will not serve stations in Shropshire or the West Midlands.

Threat of permanent withdrawal of service

Arriva Trains Wales is seeking permission from the Office of Rail Regulation to operate trains from the Cambrian Coast Line to London Marylebone. Network Rail has identified suitable paths for the services which the Welsh Assembly is supporting as an early priority. DB Regio UK has said in a letter to the Office of Rail Regulation that it is very likely that it cease funding the Wrexham and Shropshire operation immediately which will cause the operator to cease to operate with immediate effect if the Arriva Trains Wales agreement is approved. ATW has removed stops at Shrewsbury, Wellington and Telford from its proposed 06:30 Aberystwyth - London service which it says stops a duplication of WSMR services from those stations. WSMR is however reported to have said in a covering letter to the ORR "We believe that this proposal - if approved - would push the date of profitability of WSMR by at least a year. As a result of this our owning group would be unable to sustain additional and continuing losses and the WSMR service would cease to exist".

Future services

The Welsh Assembly Government announced a proposal to introduce express services between North and South Wales featuring trains with first class accommodation to attract business travellers. Wrexham & Shropshire declared an interest in the operation of these services from Wrexham to Cardiffmarker in April 2008, however these services began on 15 December 2008 under operation by Arriva Trains Wales.

Rolling stock

Wrexham & Shropshire train in operating service

Consisting fleet

Services are operated by locomotive-hauled trains, each consisting of a -capable Class 67 diesel locomotive, three Mark 3 carriages, and a Mark 3 Driving Van Trailer (DVT). Wrexham & Shropshire has obtained four complete train sets, with twelve Mk 3 coaches currently on hire from Cargo-D and four Class 67 locomotives from EWS. A fifth Class 67 locomotive is expected to be used from April 2009. The Mk 3 coaches are owned by the company and are currently being refurbished by Marcroft at Stoke on Trentmarker.

In the week of 8 October 2006, a trial run was carried out using the EWS Company Train, from London Marylebone to Wrexham General via the proposed route. Originally the locomotive/DVT arrangement was used for expediency in getting a test run organised. However, as the test train arrived on time (despite a delay at Wolverhampton), it demonstrated that such a combination was a viable option. There were regular trains between Wrexham and Marylebone to test the timetable between March and the launch in late April 2008.

Services commenced on 28 April 2008. As the DVTs and dedicated WSMR Mk3 coaches were still being refurbished by Marcroft, all trains were run initially with a Class 67 at each end of the train, the passenger accommodation consisting of three or four Mk3 coaches (on hire from Cargo-D). This initial measure required the daily use of three coaching sets and six locomotives operating the trains top and tail. However, now that the DVTs have completed refurbishment, the second Class 67 is not needed. The trains are allowed to operate at up to 100 mph (160 km/h) although there are few opportunities to do so.

Earlier proposals included the possible use of diesel multiple units, such as the Class 158 or Class 170 but they were dropped in favour of the better passenger experience offered by a locomotive hauled service.

Features

The refurbished Mark 3 carriages feature:

  • 144 Standard Class seats (72 seats per a carriage) and 30 First Class seats on each train.
  • Most seats are to be at tables, with a few in "Airline" style, and all are planned to be aligned with the windows.
  • There will also be a buffet provided.
  • Wi-Fi internet access is available at parts of the journey, though not throughout.
  • Electric sockets are provided in Standard Class.
  • A new design of interior saloon lighting diffuser has been chosen, with the same style lighting in both First Class and Standard Class. Additionally LED reading lights are provided in First Class.
  • The tip of the overhead luggage rack is maroon.
  • Five rows of six seats in First Class which provide a total of 30 First Class seats. The seat design in First Class is Primarius, which is the same design as featured aboard both Cross Country and East Coast High Speed Trains.
  • All seats aboard Standard Class are original InterCity 70 seating and are arranged in bays of four at a table, so there are eight seats and two tables in each row.


Refurbishment gallery

Image:A First Refurbished Train Launch.JPG|The first refurbished rake of Mark 3 carriages at London Marylebonemarker on Wednesday 30TH September 2009 during the launch event.Image:B Mark IIIB DVT 82305.JPG|Refreshed Mark 3B DVT No. 82305 at London Marylebonemarker.Image:F Mark IIIA RFM 10208.JPG|Extensively refurbished Mark 3A RFM No. 10208Image:J Mark IIIA RFM 10208 First Class Half Internal.JPG|The extensively refurbished First Class interior of Mark 3A RFM No. 10208.Image:N Mark IIIA TSO 12127.JPG|Recently refurbished Mark 3A TSO No. 12127Image:Q Mark IIIA TSO 12127 Standard Class Interior.JPG|The refurbished interior of Standard Class.Image:T Mark IIIA TSO 12145.JPG|Recently refurbished Mark 3A TSO No. 12145Image:V Class 67 67015.JPG|Class 67 No. 67015 brought the first refurbished train set into London Marylebonemarker.

Fleet

Wrexham & Shropshire has also named four of its Class 67 locomotives. Competitions were held and the names are as follows:

Wrexham & Shropshire now has two fully externally reliveried and internally refurbished rakes in service with the third and final rake due into service soon.

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 67 Diesel locomotive 125 200 5 London Marylebonemarker - Wrexhammarker 1999-2000
Mark 3 Coach Passenger rolling stock 125 200 12 London Marylebonemarker - Wrexhammarker 1975-1986
Driving Van Trailer 125 200 4 London Marylebonemarker - Wrexhammarker 1988
DB Regio has obtained sufficient rolling stock to allow for the formation of a fifth complete train or the extension of their existing trains to four coaches.

On rare occasions Wrexham and Shropshire have used Chiltern Railways Class 168 to cover for missing rolling stock.

Ownership and management

Background

Wrexham & Shropshire was founded as a joint venture between two existing railway companies: Renaissance Trains and Laing Rail. DB Regio, a subsidiary of the German state railway operator Deutsche Bahn acquired Laing Rail in January 2008, and with it their interest in Wrexham & Shropshire. The directors of the company include John Nelson and Mike Jones from Renaissance Trains (also directors of First Hull Trains) and Adrian Shooter (Chairman and Managing Director of Chiltern Railways and Chairman of the A.T.O.C.) and Andy Hamilton both from Laing Rail, Hamilton (former Engineering Director of Chiltern Railways) being appointed as Managing Director.

Operations

Trains are stabled overnight in the previously disused bay platform at Wrexham General with the previously disused offices there serve as the train crew depot. Some sets are stabled at Wembley TMD where they may also receive minor maintenance. Customer services are based in Coton Hillmarker, Shrewsburymarker.

Merger with Chiltern Railways

In September 2009, WSMR announced that from the beginning of 2010, it hoped to transfer operation of the Wrexham & Shropshire-branded services over to Chiltern Railways, part of DB Regio UK.

Track record of the partners

Renaissance Trains are a partner in First Hull Trains, an open-access operator which has provided services between Hullmarker and London Kings Crossmarker since 2000. First Hull Trains' punctuality record is 94.8%, the second-best punctuality figures amongst all long-distance train operating companies in Britain. They were also awarded the Golden Spanner in 2005 and 2006 for the reliability of their trains.

In the United Kingdom, DB Regio are the owners of Chiltern Railways (also previously part of Laing Rail). Since being awarded their franchise in 1996, Chiltern Railways increased passenger numbers by 70%, increased services by a third and more than doubled the number of carriages operated while being the third most punctual train operator in the UK with a record of 94.5% for the second financial quarter of 2007/2008. Chiltern Railways already operate services between London Marylebonemarker and Kidderminstermarker along part of the Wrexham & Shropshire route. In December 2007, Henderson Group, the parent company of John Laing plc announced the sale of the Laing Rail division, which comprises the stake in Wrexham & Shropshire, as well as the Chiltern Railways franchise and a 50% stake in London Overground Rail Operations Ltd (LOROL). Two bidders emerged, Deutsche Bahn and NedRail, with DB ultimately being successful.

Welsh Assembly funding

In October 2006, the Welsh Assembly announced that WSMR did not qualify for employment grants which it would then use to improve the facilities at Wrexham General station to turn it into the company's operational centre. This led to speculation that, if the funding could not be found, the company might have had to relocate to Shrewsbury, which would have affected the number of services it could run to Wrexham. However, in November 2006, the Welsh Assembly announced that the WSMR was eligible for the money, and as a result, a site survey at Wrexham Generalmarker was undertaken. The depot would be open to all train operating companies.

See also



References

  1. A look at the new refurbished Wrexham and Shropshire Mark 3 at Stoke Marcroft
  2. A YouTube video of the new refurbished coaches nearing completion
  3. http://geoff-plumb.fotopic.net/p60895279.html
  4. http://geoff-plumb.fotopic.net/p60895280.html
  5. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wrexham-Shropshire-Railway/56401182281?ref=ts
  6. Today's Railways Issue 81
  7. http://mark-riley.fotopic.net/p60798099.html
  8. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wrexham-Shropshire-Railway/56401182281?ref=ts
  9. First Visible signs of Wrexham & Shropshire fleet upgrade - Railway Herald 13th October 2008
  10. http://tonyhunter2814.fotopic.net/p60621604.html 168219 at Tame Bridge Parkway on a WSMR service
  11. Wrexham and Shropshire Contact Us
  12. Rail rivals line up Chiltern The Sunday Times - 9 December, 2007


External links




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