Wales is off the rails

5-car Virgin Super Voyager at Wolverhampton
A 5-car Virgin Super Voyager at Wolverhampton with a service to Glasgow. The same type of train can now be seen at Wolverhampton running London-Shrewsbury services.
In December last year, a limited number of through trains were introduced between Shrewsbury and London. Prior to this, it was claimed that Shrewsbury was “the only county town in England not to have a direct rail link to London”. I thought that couldn’t be true, and I was right, but I was surprised how many English counties I had to investigate on Wikipedia before I found some without through trains from their county town to the capital.

The English counties I found without through trains to London were:

  • Isle Of Wight (Newport, hasn’t even got a railway)
  • Northumberland* (Alnwick, nearest station ‘Alnmouth for Alnwick’about 3 miles away as the crow flies)
  • Nottinghamshire (West Bridgford**, hasn’t got a station (but is on Nottingham’s tram network)

I couldn’t work out what the county towns of South Yorkshire and Sussex are. Tyne and Wear, West Yorkshire and West Midlands are possibly similar cases. The fact I was using Wikipedia might be responsible for my confusion.

* Northumberland Morpeth also has claim to be the county town though (the council sits there) and has direct trains, but they are talking about moving the council/county town to Ashington which has a freight-only railway but no current passenger services

** Nottinghamshire council apparently sits here but Nottingham possibly still has claim to be the county town, in which case this one does have through trains to London

Pembrokeshire to London train
So long (and thanks for all the fish)… The last Pembrokeshire to London service of 2015 heads off to London. Come 2018, they’ll probably be gone for good.
Anyway, its time I got to the point. I found surprisingly few English county towns without through services to London, but Wales has many counties whose county towns are without London services. Several counties have no trains to London (eg. Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff) anywhere in the county, others (such as Conwy and Pembrokeshire) have London trains, but not from their county towns. Llangefni, the county town of Anglesey is among several Welsh county towns which are not on the national rail network at all, Caernarfon, Mold and Ruthin are further examples. While I’m not convinced a London service is important (the south-Wales ValleyLines certainly have no need of one), I think this shows how poorly served parts of Wales are. Filling all the gaps in Wales’ rail network would take decades and cost billions so, while some gaps might be plugged someday, a more-deliverable alternative to rail is needed in other areas. What a shame TrawsCymru has turned out to be little more than a joke.

2 thoughts on “Wales is off the rails”

    1. A good question. If you really mean ‘direct’ then Newport, Swansea and the ValleyLines have reasonably direct trains to Cardiff, and Carmarthen has a handful of direct trains. Other places, such as Haverfordwest and Conwy (the latter only two trains each way) have through services via indirect routes. At least Ceredigion (Aberaeron), Gwynedd (Caernarfon), Flintshire (Mold) and Denbighshire (Ruthin) have county towns that aren’t on the national rail network, but I think Ceredigion might be the only one which doesn’t have through trains to Cardiff from any of its towns (Aberystwyth to Cardiff would be too indirect to bother with, mind you I can’t see the point in the Holyhead to Cardiff stoppers either (occasional expresses between Cardiff and Holyhead, like the ‘premier service’, make a bit of sense though)).

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