Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Early north-south rail link opens

Ieuan Wyn Jones leaving Holyhead
Ieuan Wyn Jones leaving Holyhead at 05.32

An extra early bird train service between north and south Wales has been launched, aimed at business people.

Transport Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones was on the Holyhead to Cardiff train, which aims to cut 20 minutes off the journey. It arrived a couple of minutes late.

But one assembly member said it was "unbelievable" the new service was routed via Crewe rather than Wrexham.

Network Rail has been commissioned to carry out a feasibility study to take the service through Wrexham.

Mr Jones said the service, which starts at 0532 GMT in Holyhead and arrives in Cardiff at 1000 GMT, would give travellers an "attractive alternative" to the car when deciding on how to travel between north and south Wales.

He said the service was part of the deal which led to a coalition assembly government between Labour and the party he leads, Plaid Cymru.

We look forward to working with the assembly to deliver further initiatives to develop rail services across Wales
Tim Bell, Arriva Trains Wales

"This new return service meets our One Wales commitments to reduce travel time between north and south Wales and encourage sustainable transport," said Mr Jones, who is also deputy first minister.

Arriva Trains Wales managing director Tim Bell said: "This new enhanced quality train service reduces travel time between north and south Wales and we look forward to working with the assembly to deliver further initiatives to develop rail services across Wales."

The new four-carriage service, including a buffet, is named Y Gerallt Gymro after the 12th Century writer who travelled throughout Wales.

A band played as the train arrived at Cardiff Central Station.

The train arriving in Cardiff
The new service is aimed at business commuters between north and south Wales

Arriva Trains Wales say there were some delays on its first journey but the train arrived only a couple of minutes late after making up the majority of the time.

The morning service leaves Holyhead at 0532 GMT, arriving at Bangor half an hour later. The journey from Bangor to Cardiff Central takes just under four hours - arriving at 0958 GMT.

The evening train will leave Cardiff at 1617 GMT, arriving at Holyhead at 2049 GMT.

Liberal Democrat AM Eleanor Burnham said it was "unbelievable" that the service was "snubbing" Wrexham and said she understood it would take three years for the service to be routed there.

"We need a 'can-do' mentality to enable us in Wrexham to get to Cardiff on time."

Network Rail is currently unable to offer a train path from Holyhead to Cardiff via Wrexham with an arrival before 1000, but Mr Jones said he had commissioned a study so the service can run through Wrexham instead.

"I wanted this service to start as soon as possible, so in the meantime the service will operate via Crewe," added Mr Jones.

Meanwhile, the completion of the massive 9bn upgrade of the West Coast main line will have benefits for Wales.

From 26 January onwards, there will be three more direct services from Bangor and Holyhead to London. Six direct trains will run from Bangor and five from Holyhead to London.

In addition, there will also be an extra eight connecting trains via Chester to London every weekday and on Saturdays.

It will be an hourly service with the journey reduced to two hours. The same frequencies and journey times apply for Sunday services except they will start at 1200.

A half-hourly service and an hourly service to Chester from Llandudno Junction and Holyhead respectively will connect to the London service.

Meanwhile, a new direct Cambrian line service linking Aberystwyth with Birmingham International, serving Birmingham airport, also starts.

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