page is mainly intended for railfans and others interested in
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
, with mostly two-car 150s on the
Llandudno - Blaenau Ffestiniog and Wrexham - Bidston branches.
Trains running to and from Birmingham are generally Class
158-operated; 175s are rarely seen east of Shrewsbury.
There were some exceptions. One is the 'One Wales Express' or 'Y
Gerallt Gymro' ('Gerald of Wales') which runs from Holyhead to
Cardiff Central and back once each day Mondays - Fridays. This
is formed of four 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.
Here are the timings at all station stops. However, at the time
of writing (due to Covid-19) there are no loco-hauled services.
Some Mk4 coaches have been 'cascaded' from LNER with a new to
have two loco-hauled diagrams on the Cardiff route; this may
begin in early 2021.
Avanti West Coast
All Avanti services in North Wales, which run to/from
London or points on that route, are worked by Class 221
'Voyager' diesel railcars.
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
for details. However, 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
'All-Wales Express' (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.
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 2021,
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.
The Conwy Valley service from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog is
maintained by a Class 153 single-car diesel railcar; it was
originally announced that the 230s would work there too, but the
Boorderlands service is to be increased from hourly to
half-hourly which will require four units.
There are no freight services at all on the North Wales Coast
line at the moment (December 2019), although there are rumours
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. A few trains ran after that, but
by 201t rhere were none. The nuclear flask traffic serving Wylfa
power station ceased in 2019 with the completion of the
de-fuelling process finished.
To see freight trains you need to go to Chester, or the
high-level line at Shotton.
Trains bring timber 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.
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 sees 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 three times per
week, returning empty the following day. Services to other
teminals are planned.
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 2009 they have all
been running on an 'as
required' basis, no doubt due to market conditions in the
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 - runs
6V90 15:34 Dee Marsh - Margam (passes Wrexham 16:05 - runs when
10:08 6M24 Llanwern - Dee Marsh (Passes Wrexham 14:05)
15:35 6V47 Dee Maesh - Llanwern (passes Wrexham 16:15)
11:02 6M30 Margam - Dee Marsh (passes Wrexham 17:05)
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