Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 10:54 UK

Wrexham service to London starts

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After 40 years the Wrexham to London Marylebone train service has resumed.

A direct train service linking Wrexham with London via Shropshire started running on Monday after a 41-year gap.

Services will operate five times a day in both directions between the town and London Marylebone by the Wrexham and Shropshire train company.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones and Wrexham MP Ian Lucas joined the 0725 BST service.

The route will also re-establish a direct link between Shropshire, Walsall (Tame Bridge Parkway) and London.

Shropshire last had a direct service in the 1990s and Walsall lost its link 30 years ago.

The train stops at 10 stations between Wrexham and London including Shrewsbury, Telford, Wolverhampton and Banbury.

Mr Jones also opened a rail depot built to provide overnight accommodation for the trains, as well as office space and catering supplies.

He said: "This expansion of services will play a key role in building a more effective rail network for Wales - one of the ambitions set out in our 'One Wales' programme for government."

The company is using hired carriages and engines until its own dedicated fleet of trains is ready to begin running in the summer.

Andy Hamilton of the train company and Ieuan Wyn Jones
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Ieuan Wyn Jones

The new trains will offer charging points for laptops and mobiles as well as free Wi-fi access.

The company experienced its first teething troubles with the early morning service, which had departed at 0542 BST.

Technical problems meant the train was delayed at Wellington.

But a spokeswoman for the train company said an engineer on board was able to resolve the problem, although it meant the train was due to arrive between 50 minutes and an hour late.

She said all passengers would be offered a full refund.

Strong market

Andy Hamilton, managing director of Wrexham and Shropshire, said: "Wrexham has not had a frequent, direct rail service to London since 1967 so this is a proud day for the rail industry and for the town.

"We are looking forward to welcoming people on board and contributing to the success of Wrexham's economy.

"The fact that our service is direct and is competitively priced means we are confident that we will generate a strong market for this service based on our experience of running profitable customer focused rail services elsewhere."

The first paying customer to board the train was Andy Murray, from Coedpoeth who was travelling to London.

The management consultant has previously either driven to Crewe to catch a direct service or had to change trains if getting on at Wrexham.

"This service is direct which makes a difference because you stay in the same seat, although the journey is slightly longer," he said.

Andy Murray
Andy Murray likes not having to change trains en route

"I travel to London once or twice a week and this is definitely a good thing."

By the time the train reached Shrewsbury at 0810 BST there were fewer than 10 paying customers on board but Mr Hamilton said he was not disappointed.

He added: "I saw the first train leave (0542 BST) with 11 passengers from Wrexham station and I'm confident that as the business grows and word spreads there will be people on here and we will have full trains.

"Our biggest worry is whether we're going to have enough seats in the future."

John Snell, an NHS manager, from Gobowen, was travelling to Shrewsbury.

He said: "It means I can get to work a bit earlier and it's not as crowded either. At the moment there's loads of space.

"When we go to London we normally go by train. This service does take a bit longer than the other London services but it will make a difference not having to change at Birmingham, which can cause delays."

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, who also took the train, said: "It's a tremendous occasion. It's superb news for Wrexham because a business is showing it wants to come here because Wrexham is going forward and it's a prosperous place."


video and audio news
Passengers say the new service will make life easier



SEE ALSO
Objections to Wrexham rail link
13 Feb 07 |  North East Wales
Walsall to London rail link plan
28 Feb 07 |  West Midlands
Rail depot may bring London link
21 Nov 06 |  North East Wales
Doubts over town's railway centre
19 Oct 06 |  North East Wales
Direct London train for Wrexham
01 Feb 06 |  North East Wales

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