Wrexham-Shropshire-London direct rail link to end

Wrexham and Shropshire Railways says it has not managed to increase passenger numbers in the economic downturn

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A direct train service linking Wrexham with London via Shropshire is to finish this week, less than three years after it was reinstated.

The service from north Wales to London Marylebone returned in April 2008 after a gap of 41 years.

Wrexham, Shropshire, Marylebone Railway (WSMR) blamed falling customers numbers in the economic downturn.

It said it would help 55 staff find alternative jobs when the service ends on Friday.

They were given the news on Tuesday evening.

The service had run five times a day but then dropped to four and was reduced to three last December.

Tickets will be valid on Virgin, Arriva Trains Wales, London Midland and Chiltern Railways services instead.

Those who have used the service have been full of praise, and it scored a remarkable 99% satisfaction rating in an independent survey.

When it launched, the service stopped at 10 stations between Wrexham and London including Shrewsbury, Telford, Wolverhampton and Banbury.

ANALYSIS Rail expert and journalist Christian Wolmar

I'm afraid that it was always likely.

Originally this was set up by a rival company to Chiltern, which runs most of the services on that line, and eventually they both became owned by Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway.

So it was no longer really viable for Deutsche Bahn to be running services that were rival to its main franchise services.

They were very nice trains. I did travel on it a couple of times.

It used to be real old-fashioned service, with friendly staff, nice food and a very different atmosphere from the sort of modern glass and aluminium boxes that we're used to these days.

He was speaking to BBC Radio Wales

The Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway Company began as a joint partnership between Renaissance Trains, which runs the Hull to London service, and Laing Rail.

It is now run by Chiltern, an offshoot of Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German state railway operator, and has been struggling to gain enough passengers to make it a going concern.

In a letter handed out to passengers at Wrexham General station on Wednesday morning, Wrexham and Shropshire chairman Adrian Shooter said the firm lost £2.8m in 2010.

He said: "We have done everything possible to try to reduce the losses.

"We have reached the conclusion that the business has no prospect of providing a return on investment."

Mr Shooter said staff were being sought alternative jobs in the railway industry.

In a statement, the firm said that despite having attempted to increase passenger numbers, it had determined that the business has no prospect of reaching profitability and providing a return on investment.

It said: "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."

Cllr David Bithell, lead member for the environment and transport at Wrexham Council said they were "very shocked" at the news.

"The announcement comes during a very difficult economic climate and is a jobs blow to the area. The service provided an excellent customer experience and we know this will be missed by its regular users. "

"We will continue to work with rail network providers to ensure that the area's needs for rail travel are met."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) 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."

He called for the UK Government to step in and nationalise the franchise to protect both the jobs and the service.

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