Wrexham & Shropshire rail to halt London services

Alan Jones,Pa
Wednesday 26 January 2011 12:00

A rail company is to cease operations on Friday, ending its services between North Wales and London, it was announced today.

Wrexham & Shropshire Railways said the move followed an investigation into all possible alternatives, citing the "unprecedented economic environment" as a contributing factor.

"Although the company has strived to increase passenger numbers, it has been determined that the business has no prospect of reaching profitability.

"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," the firm said in a statement.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said the decision was a "bitter blow" to the railway industry.

The company said it had made a number of moves in a bid to make a profit, including cutting the original service of five trains a day between Wrexham and London Marylebone, to four in 2009, then to three last month.

Chairman Adrian Shooter said: "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 £13 million 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."

Wrexham & Shropshire launched in April 2008, restoring direct train services between Wrexham, Shropshire and London, developing a reputation for excellence in customer service, reaching a 99% customer satisfaction score in the National Passenger Survey.

Despite strong growth in passenger numbers, the business has not been able to generate sufficient revenues to cover more than 65% of the cost of operating the service and in 2010 alone suffered losses of £2.9 million, said the company, which is owned by Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway.

The last train to depart will be the 1830 from London Marylebone to Wrexham General on Friday.

From Saturday January 29, all Wrexham & Shropshire tickets already purchased 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.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "This is a bitter blow to the UK rail industry and it is a scandal that a giant company like Deutsche Bahn can play fast and loose with our rail services in this way and then and cut run when they decide the profit margins aren't fat enough.

"The UK Government should now step in and nationalise the franchise to protect both the jobs and the popular Wrexham & Shropshire services and there should be a full inquiry into how this route, set up with Welsh government and taxpayer support, has been ground into the dust by Deutsche Bahn.

"Our immediate priority now is to protect our members caught in the middle of this scandalous private sector failure."

Virgin Trains confirmed it would carry passengers left stranded by the cancellation of the Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway (WSMR) services.

Virgin Trains' chief operating officer Chris Gibb said: "The withdrawal of WSMR services is devastating for those passengers who have already made travel plans and are now stranded.

"WSMR's collapse is also bad news for UK railways where passengers want to be able to plan travel with confidence.

"We hope that, by offering them an alternative means, they will be able to travel stress-free and will not have to cancel plans to visit their families and loved ones, or for business."

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