Getting all emotional over trains

As a regular user of Marylebone station in west London, I watched bemused as train operator Deutsche Bahn introduced a new service from Marylebone to north Wales. Among the suburban trains taking commuters to Wycombe, Amersham and Banbury were occasionally assembled a motley collection of old Inter City railway carriages and big diesel power cars – which over time were painted in the silver livery of Wrexham & Shropshire.

The biggest mystery was who would want to take a train that wended its way in an excessively slow four hours or so, via the Midlands to Telford and Wrexham in north Wales – or else wanted to take this slow way to London.

Last week came the answer – not many people. The service was axed, having cost its backers a small fortune in three years of operation. They did all they could to attract customers, with reasonable prices and a service that scored top marks in satisfaction surveys, and a buffet car that apparently served a wonderful menu with a style other train operators have long forgotten. But through last year poor usage meant they dropped from five to four trains a day, then to three, in a bid to stem the losses.

There were a number of other factors which helped the service fail, including restrictive conditions that prevented it competing with other train operators; it stopped at Wolverhampton, for example, but was not allowed to pick up passengers wanting to go to London. For more on the dysfunctional way our railways are run, and its impact on Wrexham & Shropshire, read the Daily Mail correspondent’s eulogy here.

But the funny thing is, we now have north Wales politicians calling for the service to be reinstated, and a 5,000 strong petition from users has been collected in support of their calls. I can’t imagine that would have happened, had this service been provided by a coach operator.

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