Posted: Sun 26th Nov 2023

TfW boosts struggling Wrexham-Bidston Line: Trains every 45 minutes in new timetable

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Nov 26th, 2023

Transport for Wales (TfW) has announced plans to significantly improve services on several key lines.

Starting from the next timetable period running from 10 December to 1 June next year, TfW plans to increase the frequency of trains on the Wrexham Central to Bidston line to every 45 minutes, up from the current hourly service.

TfW has said this change will provide ‘better reliability’ on the struggling Borderlands line.

TfW’s performance on the line has hit rock bottom. The introduction of the Class 230 trains was supposed to herald a new era of train travel on the line.

However, they have been hit by reliability issues and have struggled to keep to the hourly timetable. Old rolling stock has been brought onto the line in a bid to shore up the service.

Data collated by the website On Time Trains shows that just 9% of trains arrived at Hawarden on time over the last 12 weeks.

The performance of the line came into sharp focus in June this year when TfW published a ‘5-step plan’ it hoped would address issues with rail services between Wrexham and Bidston.

At the time, Deputy Minister responsible for transport Lee Waters said it was “important” for the Welsh government “to face the music over criticism around the Wrexham to Bidston railway line, as the situation for passengers had been “awful, and nobody’s pretending otherwise.”

In November 2022, the rail regulator approved the increase of passenger train services on the Wrexham to Bidston railway line, a key part of the £50m ‘North Wales Metro’ programme.

This program aimed to transform rail, bus, and active travel services across the region; however, it appears to have been quietly filed away.

The Welsh Government had previously committed to increasing the number of trains on the Borderlands Line to two per hour from May 2022.

However, there was a conflict in applications for capacity on the line between Transport for Wales Rail Limited (TfWRL) and GB Railfreight Limited (GBRf), as initially accommodating both was not feasible.

TfW currently operates an hourly passenger service, while GBRf uses the line for freight services to Deeside and Avonmouth from the Padeswood Cement Works.

Network Rail’s capacity analysis initially rejected both applications, leading GBRf and TfWRL to seek a decision from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). The ORR conducted an independent review, considering the line’s capability, operational issues, and a cost-benefit analysis.

The ORR’s decision gave TfW the green light to run two passenger trains per hour on the line.

This decision was seen as delivering a positive outcome for passengers and also beneficial for freight and the local area.

The continuation of freight trains serving Padeswood cement works was confirmed, with each freight train equivalent to removing 36 HGVs from roads, offering environmental benefits.

TfW also said last year it planned to introduce new Class 197 “made in Wales” diesel trains on the Borderlands Line.

On December’s timetable change, TfW said it is reintroducing the hourly Chester to Liverpool services via Liverpool airport.

“Fifty brand new trains have now joined the fleet with more than 100 set to be introduced on the mainline and Metro networks over the next two years.”

“A full hourly service between Cardiff and Cheltenham Spa will also start next year as more trains become available.”

TfW’s Planning and Performance Director Colin Lea said: “We’re delighted to be introducing new services on key routes in both the north and south of our network in this timetable period.

“The Ebbw Vale project showed fantastic collaboration with our partners to almost double the number of services on the line, with the new link to Newport, and allows greater opportunities for leisure, learning and commuting.

“In Wrexham and Deeside, it gives more choice and better reliability on the Borderlands line to Bidston, while the full return of Liverpool-Chester services is now possible following completion of crew training on our new trains.

“The most important thing is to please check your travel details before you travel.”

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