Wrexham and Shropshire railway to close

Even German efficiency has
proved unable to save what has been voted Britain’s most
popular railway. Wrexham and Shropshire Railways (W&S), which scored a 99
per cent customer satisfaction rating, is to close, cutting off a direct route
to London for
delegates travelling by train to The Telford International
Centre.

The W&S launched its direct
service to London Marylebone in 2008, but owner Deutsche Bahn says the plan has
not worked out, with the service operating at a loss of £2.9m last year, having
had £13m invested in it.

The railway company was held up
as an example of the potential for ‘open access’: the setting up of unregulated,
unsubsidised train companies. Despite the theory, W&S still needed £1m of
support from the Welsh Assembly.

Virgin Trains,
as CN first reported, subsequently entered the market with a non-direct service
from London Euston to the region and Arriva Trains launched a direct service
from Aberystwyth to Marylebone.

W&S Chairman Adrian Shooter
admitted the company may have misjudged the market and overestimated demand.
“However, we have concluded that there is no reasonable prospect that W&S
can become profitable,” he said.

Southwater Event Group owns The
International Centre, Telford, and hailed the
rail link upon its inception. Chief Executive Tom Gray now tells CN the news that Wrexham & Shropshire
Railways is to cancel its direct service to London 28 January is “disappointing”, although
he claimed the region still had impressive road links and alternative train
services. “Many of our delegates come from all over the UK and beyond, and not just the London area, and we have
excellent road access as TIC is just minutes from the
motorway network,” said Gray.

“And when it comes to rail
travel, Virgin Trains are already looking into extending their services into the
Shropshire area to pick up some of the
shortfall.

“We’ve also heard from a large
number of delegates who prefer the express service which Virgin Trains provide
anyway, so we believe although the closure of Wrexham & Shropshire Railways
is unfortunate, it will not seriously affect our business as we move
forward.”

Got a news story for Conference News? Email: pcolston@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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