Open access operator Wrexham & Shropshire is warning that Arriva’s plan to run through trains between Aberystwyth and London could mean the end of the line for WSMR. In a sharply-worded letter to the ORR, WSMR has accused Arriva Trains Wales of 'predatory’ behaviour.
ATW has applied for a licence to provide two trains daily, except Sundays, and also proposes to run three on summer Saturdays next year. The services would be extensions of the new hourly trains on the Cambrian line west of Shrewsbury, using Class 158 diesel units, and run via Birmingham International, Banbury, West Ruislip and Wembley.
WSMR, which is now owned jointly by DB Regio and Renaissance Trains, is dismayed by the proposal. Managing director Andy Hamilton said: ‘Considering the current revenue position of Wrexham & Shropshire and the pressure put on the business by the current economic climate, I can confirm that if the ATW 38th Supplemental Agreement is approved it is very likely that DB Regio UK will cease funding and it is likely that Wrexham & Shropshire will immediately withdraw from the market.'
In a 'supplementary note' to the ORR, WSMR went even further: ‘We believe the proposal to be predatory in nature, specifically designed to put Wrexham & Shropshire out of business. This belief is supported by the very way that ATW have gone about this proposal, writing warm words suggesting that their proposal is intended to complement and support the existing Wrexham & Shropshire service when, in reality, ATW have made absolutely no effort to engage either Wrexham & Shropshire or Chiltern Railways on any aspect of the proposal or application. The only correspondence received has been a formal response to our previous concerns at the time of the initial industry consultation.’
WSMR will be operated by Chiltern Railways from the New Year, but the identity of the open-access operator will remain.
Arriva Trains Wales denied the WSMR accusations, and said that it wanted its London service to complement the WSMR timings, not compete with them. It has also amended its ORR application to remove certain stops in a bid to protect the WSMR service.
ATW commercial director Mike Bagshaw maintained that there was certainly a demand for trains between Aberystwyth and London. He said: ‘Following the successful introduction of a new, more reliable Cambrian Line timetable last December, market research and our own knowledge of the local market has shown that there is a strong customer demand for a comfortable and reasonably priced direct service between mid Wales and London.
‘We’ve received overwhelming support from stakeholders and passengers for this new service and we want to expand our network to serve new markets, creating travel opportunities. The restoration of this link would bring significant benefits to both the local economy and tourism.’