Wrexham & Shropshire: Second to none

Published: 10:38AM Mar 17th, 2011
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Loved by its passengers, sadly it just couldn’t entice enough of them to travel. January saw Deutsche Bahn cease its Wrexham & Shropshire open access operation after less than three years of service. Mark Darby was on hand to record the major milestones of the short-lived company and provides a selection of his favourite shots here.

Wrexham & Shropshire: Second to none

On the morning of May 14th, 2008, just two weeks after the new services began, WSMR-liveried No. 67013 (later named Dyfrbont Pontcysyllte) roars up the single-track chord at Aynho Junction leading the 1P03 07.25 Wrexham General to London Marylebone. EWS stablemate No. 67028 tails the four-coach train of Cargo-D Mk. 3 stock.

FOR the residents of Wrexham, April 28th, 2008, was a momentous occasion as fledgling open access operator Wrexham, Shropshire & Marylebone Railway commenced passenger services.

Providing a long sought after direct train to London, WSMR passed some of the most varied countryside in the UK, including the beautiful Chilterns and the urban surroundings of Birmingham, depositing its valued customers at the fine old Great Central terminus at Marylebone, now the focus of Chiltern Railways’ empire.
The service boasted and consistently delivered ‘Grand Comfort’ travel, coupled with the finest locally sourced refreshments, to provide the passenger with a product that was exemplary.

As well as its customer-pleasing attributes, there was plenty for the enthusiast to enjoy in Wrexham & Shropshire’s new operation. The Anglo-Welsh service heralded the return of regular locomotive-hauled workings to the main Chiltern route for the first time in decades, DB Schenker Class 67s being the preferred motive power, with Derby’s still outstanding Mk. 3 the coaching stock of choice. The test runs saw an eclectic livery mix of EWS GMs top ’n’ tailing with hired Cargo-D carriages. As Mk. 3b Driving Van Trailers were finally outshopped from Axiom Rail, Stoke-on-Trent, the second Class 67 was stood down, the trains being formed as push-pull sets with the locomotive at the Marylebone end.

Unfortunately, the privatised railway is less than friendly to open access operators, which are seen as removing revenue from the franchised train companies. It is a shame that WSMR’s fresh and dynamic service should be met with such a forest of obstructions, including ridiculous pick up and set down restrictions. While the red tape was partly to avoid open access from ‘cherry picking’ prime routes, the complex arrangements left the travelling public completely bemused. If that wasn’t bad enough, Wrexham & Shropshire was launched amid the backdrop of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression of the 1930s!

After just over two years and 10 months of operation, the inevitable occurred and WSMR’s owner, which by this point was DB Regio, decided that enough was enough and that the loco-hauled service was unlikely to ever break even. Friday, January 28th was the last day of service, with the last train being the 1J84 18.30 Marylebone to Wrexham, which was worked by No. 67013 Dyfrbont Pontcysyllte.

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