Wrexham & Shropshire to cease operation

Published: 10:17AM Jan 26th, 2011
By: Chris Milner

Open access operator calls time after less than three years

Wrexham & Shropshire to cease operation

WSMR's No. 67013 passing Bicester North on February 1, 2010. CHRIS MILNER

The Deutsche Bahn-backed open access operator Wrexham & Shropshire Railway is to cease operations on January 28.

In a statement, the company said that it had looked into alternatives, and had strived to increase passenger numbers but cited “the unprecedented economic environment” as a contributing factor. As a result, it has been determined that the business has no prospect of reaching profitability. In 2010, the company lost £2.8million.

The statement added that Wrexham & Shropshire is not insolvent nor is it being placed in administration and all outstanding financial commitments will be met.  Alternative employment opportunities within the railway industry are being sought for the 55 employees, and all staff wages and full redundancy entitlements will be paid.

DB Regio UK Chairman Adrian Shooter, explained: "Regrettably, we have concluded that the potential for further changes to the company's operations, including any synergy with Arriva Trains Wales, will not improve the financial position sufficiently.  The shareholders have invested in excess of £13m in launching the business and funding its losses, and have now concluded that there is no reasonable prospect that Wrexham & Shropshire can become profitable, or offer a return on this investment." 

Wrexhams & Shropshire began operations on April 28, 2008, and had track access agreements in place until 2014. Most recently, the company achieved a 99per cent rating in a Passenger Focus survey. It operated a very competitive and uncomplicated fare structure, but just failed to win over passengers in big numbers.

Last August, managing director Andy Hamilton fired a ‘use it or lose it’ warning to rail passengers.

Clearly the operation has been struggling to meet passenger levels to make it financially viable, and just a few months after Mr Hamilton’s stark warning, the company announced it was cutting the number of trains operated from four per weekday to three. Initially the service was launched in 2008 with five trains on weekdays, but this was cut to four in March 2009.

Mr Shooter added: "Even though we are forced to close the business, we remain extremely proud of what we have achieved with Wrexham & Shropshire; with many stating that we set the standard for all other train companies to follow. I would like to pay tribute to Andy Hamilton, Managing Director, and everyone in the Wrexham & Shropshire team. Our people are the best in the business and have set the standard for others to follow."

The last WSMR train to run will be the 18.30 from London Marylebone to Wrexham on January 28. Tickets for future services will be valid on alternative routes into London Euston operated by Arriva Trains Wales, London Midland and Virgin Trains, and from London Marylebone by Chiltern Railways.

Its four specially branded Class 67s with names local to the WSMR operation will be absorbed back into the DB Schenker fleet, and the rolling stock, which went through a very protracted overhaul at Marcroft, Stoke-on-Trent, is expected to transfer to sister company Chiltern Railways.

It is also feasible that some locos and stock could get used by Arriva Trains Wales, also owned by DB, for a possible second loco-hauled North Wales-Cardiff that has been mooted.

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