Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru Traffic

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 The Class 175 units which worked our lines from 2000 have now all been withdrawn by October 2023.

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 20-year-old 175s.

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 LNER. 

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 Info website.  However, in practice,  some of the workings are subsutited by by other stock.

Diagram 1

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)

Diagram 3

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)

Diagram 4

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)

Diagram 5

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)

Diagram 6

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 for details.

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 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 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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