Why Shrewsbury misses the train to London


When 4,000 people sign a petition about a local rail service you have to sit up and take notice - especially when among the signatories are MPs from both sides of the political divide.

The Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, Daniel Kawczynski, and the Labour MP for Telford, David Wright, are two of the high-profile Salopians who have signed the petition organised by the Shropshire Star newspaper calling for the restoration of direct rail services between Shrewsbury and London.

Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury Daniel Kawczynski, is one local MP to sign the petition

What makes this campaign unusual is that Virgin Trains has twice applied to do exactly that.

So why should Shrewsbury be one of the only English county towns without a direct rail link to the capital?

Services to London Marylebone by the Wrexham Shropshire Railway Company were axed nearly three years ago after running-up a loss of nearly £3m in their final year of operation alone.

But campaigners say this is no reason why a service shouldn't resume. They point out that was a stopping service which took three-and-a-half hours each way.

'Detrimental impact'

The biggest market is for a fast business route calling only at principal stations and that, say, Virgin, is exactly what they want to run.

So who or what is stopping them? Network Rail.

They have refused Virgin's application, saying: "The line is all but full and cannot cope with additional services. Our analysis, backed up by the regulator, has shown it will have a detrimental impact on performance for all users on the route."

Reading between the lines (no pun intended) the main question here is punctuality.

Extra trains would undoubtedly put more strain on the West Coast Mainline which in turn increases the risk of delays to existing services.

A Virgin train Virgin Trains has applied to run the service

But Mr Kawczynski isn't taking Network Rail's "no" for an answer.

He says: "We are only talking about two, possibly three, return journeys a day. It's ludicrous that Network Rail are saying the line cannot cope with extra services."

Network Rail do have one crumb of comfort for the Shropshire campaigners.

It said: "We have always said that when performance improves, additional services might be something we could consider again in the future."

Further improvements to the West Coast line itself should help. But for the government the over-arching answer is High Speed Rail, which ministers say will free-up capacity for a variety of new services on existing lines, including the one to Shrewsbury.

But HS2, as they say, is another story altogether.

We'll have more on this on Sunday Politics at 11.00 on BBC One Midlands on Sunday.

Patrick Burns, Political editor, Midlands Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    What this article doesn't say is where the problem is why line capacity. If it's between Rugby and London nothing much can be done except extending Wolves trains to Shrewsbury. If it's around Birmingham you could send them via Tame Bridge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    There is a huge distraction being caused by having a Shrewsbury - London service. The everyday service to and from Birmingham every hour needs to be sorted first. A new station is needed outside of the town ideally where the A5 and A49 roads meet. The current station is poorly sited and badly congested. Sort the basics first, then have the London service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    all Im saying is this...you can take a Pendolino from euston..have it crewed by purely Virgin staff, the fast path is Virgins, the path in to wales paid for by that TOC...the crews can be paid offcosting to that TOC etc...Its so simple...But as always Network rail and the tocs make running a railway as complicated as getting an apollo mission to the moon....that was easy i think compared ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Citizen X is suffering a degree of 'armchair comment' as the whole position is not as easy as simply swapping trains from one route to another. We need to forget sectorisation as that position is not relevant these days either. In obvious terms, we are where we are are!
    I smile at the MPs but Shropshire Council could not be bothered to have a meeting to restore 3 trains per hour Bham-Shrewsbury!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    just to add in the BR Sectored days - this would have been a simple job to path..euston fast to crewe - stops at Watford & Milton keynes...an Inter city job...from Crewe a Loco change and it became a Regional railways Job...same train..same passengers...two sectors paying for one job..both benefitting..Both cost centres making cash...Thing is can two TOCS work together to provide a through train?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I understand why putting both trains and the track into one business might seem like the better answer however you can't privatise Network Rail (at present it's in a state of private-publicness), when the Conservative government tried that in the 90s, Railtrack failed to prevent too many accidents, profit cannot come before safety, we should renationalise the network.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Shrrewsbury could have a new station an they could run Shrewsbury as a at the center to five new lines.that connect all the cities.If they designed it properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    They should just have Virgin run the whole net-work. I bet it would drive down cost because one company makes all the profit, so one company has extra cash to maintain and upgrade lines. They should be adding a new London to Shrewsbury network, as a HS2 line. Which is not on the plan..but should be. maybe an extra station from Shrewsbury to London..

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Network Rail are stopping progress cut them out the loop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Why not use a high speed train unit. It's been done before (still is in fact). That would cut out the delay arising from changing engines.
    Of course, there's always the recently redoubled line to Paddington / Marylebone as well.
    They could even run via Newport; it would hardly take any longer than being shunted across the W. Midlands!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    This isn't to do with capacity on the WCML at all. To run a Shewsbury service all Virgin need to do is swap the diesel trains on the Birmingham - Glasgow service with the electric trains which operate the hourly Euston - Wolverhampton service and extend it to Shrewsbury (with a stop at Telford) on alternate hours and give these towns 6 to 8 trains a day to London depending on demand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    just to add this service did go via shrewsbury....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    In the days of Inter city there was a daily direct service to aberwystwth from Euston...there is a demand for it so god knows why it cant be pathed in utilising a local service path to crewe and then a Fast Path from the main line..also a direct services to Blackpool North from euston, none of this messing around at Preston. there are plenty of ways of getting intercity services in to euston ..



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