Wrexham & Shropshire, which has been running its rail services for nearly a year may have to close its operations if its larger rival, Virgin Trains, gets the go-ahead to compete on the routes from North Wales and Shropshire to London.
The International Centre Telford was one of the major venues in the region benefiting from the new direct route opened up to the capital last year. Journey time is now two hours, 45 minutes from London to Telford.
Conference and exhibition goers to Shropshire have waited long enough for a direct rail link and now, it seems, two come along at once.
A Virgin spokesman says that its proposed new service for North Wales and Shrewsbury, due to start in December if approval from the Rail Regulator is received, will “provide greater choice throughout the day for the people of Shropshire”.
W&S claim their fare of £40 for a standard return London-Telford, any train any day, compares favourably with a Virgin standard class return fare of £149.
W&S MD Andy Hamilton tells conference-news:
“We restored a direct rail link to London that had been overlooked for a very long time. As a private operator, we are proud of the success that we have made of our route without needing public money. We understand that Virgin, a subsidised rail firm, has plans to extend to Shrewsbury. This is clearly of concern to us. We don’t mind competition, but it needs to be fair. Virgin has a monopoly deal which prevents us from picking up passengers at some key stations like Wolverhampton and Birmingham International.
“If the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) allows Virgin to run services in our key markets without allowing us to run in theirs, it is highly likely that we will not survive. This would be terrible news for passengers, who would be left vulnerable.”
Should Virgin follow through with an application to the ORR, W&S will formalise objections, Hamilton says.