update: July 2022
page is mainly intended for railfans and others interested in
For general timetable information please see our Travel Information
Rail Guidelines for Railway Enthusiasts
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 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
Two further Monday - Saturday loco-hauled diagrams on the Holyhead
- Cardiff axis began in September 2021, as below:
1V91 05:33 Holyhead - Cardiff Central 09:58
1W93 11:22 Cardiff Central - Holyhead 16:19
1626 1V98 16:36 Holyhead - Cardiff Central 2128
1W91 06:45 Cardiff Central - Holyhead 11:20
1V96 11: 33 Holyhead - Cardiff Central 16:15
1W96 17:16 Cardiff Central - Holyhead 21:37
On Saturdays there is a 'swap' one of the sets runs empty
from Holyhead to Crewe for maintenance, and a different set
5K61 09:51 Holyhead Carriage depot - Crewe carriage sidings 12:28
then to Crewe C.S.
5D68 14:10 Crewe C.S - Holyhead carrriage depot
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, training and
mileage accumulation 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
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
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.
Traffic re-started worked by GB Railfreight, carrying stone for
construction to a terminal at Tueebrook sidings, Liverpool, in
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 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
any col-fired power stations operating. The first train ran on 3
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 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'
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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