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Virgin Trains comes to Shrewsbury UK

Updated on December 17, 2014
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Virgin Trains Employees

A lucky Trip to Shrewsbury

So I decided to go to Shrewsbury for some Christmas shopping and to my good fortune my love of historic towns combined with my love of rail transportation. Whilst shopping in Marks and Spencer I picked up a copy of the Shropshire Star to read on the way home and there was a huge article about the inauguration of direct travel from Shrewsbury to London on Virgin Trains. Richard Branson had taken the leap of faith to tie this lovely Shropshire town into his country wide network. Luck stayed with me as we headed to the station and standing at platform 3 was a first day of service train. This article is the story of how all this came about.

Historic Shrewsbury Town

Shrewsbury is steeped in history and good fortune has allowed much of its ancient architecture to survive. There is a magnificent collection of Tudor, Jacobite and Georgian buildings that many larger cities would love to have. But Shropshire is a very rural county and has not benefitted from the motorways and rail networks so prominent in the industrial heartland of England. The last direct link to London was managed by the Wrexham Shropshire Marylebone Railway Company which managed to lose £3m in 2011 before shutting the service down in that year. The return of the direct link in 2014 is part business sense, part necessity for the local economy and part a leap of faith

Virgin Trains at Platform 3 Shrewsbury December 15th 2014

Inaugural Trip

The first trip was at 3.49pm on Sunday Dec 14th but 15th was the first day of regular service. The train, called the 'Wrekin Giant' and chosen via a competition in the Shropshire Star, leaves Shrewsbury and stops at Wellington, Telford then Wolverhampton and follows the main line through Birmingham and Coventry and into London Euston. Many people were out to see the first direct train in what has been a hiatus of over four years. A petition was created with 3000 signatures and was presented before parliament at Westminster. The new service now means that people from Shrewsbury and Shropshire do not need to board a crowded commuter train to Wolverhampton and then change and catch a main line train to London. The service is expected to benefit the region to the tune of millions of pounds.

Travel by Train from Shrewsbury to London

This new service will need the support of the local population to succeed. Will you travel to London by Virgin Trains.

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Train Enthusiasm

The excitement of the new service went further than just the potential commuters. Train enthusiasts came from Wolverhampton to see the first train service. One gentleman, a Mr Richards, saw the last train leave when the service ended and was delighted to be back to see the service start up again. I am also a great train enthusiast and it was just by chance that I happened to be on the platform when the 3.20pm Virgin train was waiting to leave platform 3. I seized the opportunity to go over and take a photograph with my tablet (not the best choice but all I had with me). As I took the photo, the Virgin staff thought I was taking a photo of them. They were obviously expecting this what with all the excitement around the trip. My mind quickly put two and two together and I was able to take two shots to make this into a very personal article. I don't know the ladies or gentleman's name but I am very grateful. If I had been braver I may have spoken to them but I am only just starting on this more journalistic approach to my hubs so baby steps, baby steps methinks.

The Long Haul

Naturally the main aim now is to preserve the service and the only way to do that is to get people to use it. Mr Richards, who was so delighted to see the service return, does have a few lingering doubts that it could fail again if it is not properly supported. Richard Stanton of Virgin Trains said it was a very exciting time for everyone involved. But while the initial use will be for people to travel down to London, for the service to be successful there also needs to be a backflow of people and businesses from London using the train to come to Shropshire and invest in the county. Support from the public is 'overwhelming' but the proof of the pudding will be ridership in the years that follow. With hundreds on board for the first trips the signs are encouraging.

First trip of Virgin Trains Shrewsbury

Virgin Trains can 'learn much'

The last time there was a direct train from Shrewsbury to the capital was when a service ran from Wrexham via Shrewsbury and down to Marylebone. It was operated by a company of the same name and apparently the service ad much to commend itself. It was run on an old fashioned good service regimen. Surveys made at the time gave the company a 99% satisfaction rating by its travellers. The staff were genuinely friendly and the food was generally excellent, not the kind of service usually found on the London run. Virgin is quietly confident that this time it can make a real go of it, with a successful popular line that also brings a return on investment for the company. It really does all hang on the issue of traffic volumes, anyone working in London can catch a 6.39am train and arrive in London at 9.15am, returning at 9pm after catching a 6.23pm train. A long day by any standards but very possible in today's commuter mad world. (For the record I lived in Toronto Canada for a number of years and commuted a 30 mile distance in just over an hour. Pull out the computer, tablet, newspaper and headphones and the time soon passes) The final word goes to the local MP, Daniel Kawczynski who hopes the 'inward investment of local tourism will follow' once the local population get behind the service and use it.

With sincere thanks to the Shropshire Star whose editorials were the germ that set me on the path of this article.

Author's notes

I have been a long time supported of rail transport. I first became enthralled when I was lad of ten living in Wolverhampton in the last days of steam. The travel by train to London was always by rail and while I don't think I rode on a steam hauled train, I am certain I would have been taken on green diesels. By the time I had my independence in the early 70's the route had been electrified from Wolverhampton and I have photos of blue electric trains as they readied for departure. Later BR colours of grey and blue dot my memory right up to this day with what I would call EMU's or electrical multiple units. As you can gather I lived on the main line and the line heading west to Shrewsbury was always by a DMU or diesel multiple unit. In other words a 'change' of trains was needed. It is my fervent hope that one day the Shrewsbury line will be electrified and we can see modern EMU's take control of the whole route. Restoration of the diesel service is a huge step in the right direction, if it can be made viable then surly electrification can only be a few decades away. These are exciting times for Shrewsbury and I hope for all rail transportation. Now if only they would look at the Cambrian Coast Line !!!

Shrewsbury Shropshire UK


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