French train builder Alstom starts its own rail service in UK

French rail group Alstom will operate its own train service in the UK from May 2025 between Wales and London. An application has been submitted to the UK rail regulator Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to operate five daily trains in each direction.

“We have been part of the UK rail fabric for two centuries, and we are delighted to enter a new era as a private operator,” says Nick Crossfield, Alstom’s top executive in the UK and Ireland. The group is also known as a train manufacturer and developer of rail signaling.

Wrexham momentum

The new link is being worked out with consultant SLC Rail. It will go through life as Wrexham, Shropshire, and Midlands Railway (WSMR), linking north Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands, and London.

The project would create about 50 jobs. “The new transport offer will bring better connections to north Wales and the Midlands, such as direct trains to London from Shrewsbury, Telford, and Wrexham,” said UK rail minister Huw Merriman.

WSMR is expected to serve a core area of about 1.5 million people outside London, “a population expected to grow by 16% over the next decade,” Alstom stresses. The new service also responds to the hype surrounding Wrexham, a town in north-east Wales.

Last year, Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham AFC, a club that was then in the fifth division of English football. The arrival of Reynolds and McElhenney has revitalized the team and made the city trending.

Avoiding Birmingham

In the West Midlands, WSMR trains will avoid Birmingham – one of the most complex and congested parts of the British rail network – by utilizing the Sutton Park line, which is currently only used for freight services.

In October, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak scrapped part of the HS2 high-speed rail line construction between Birmingham and Manchester. The 36 billion pounds it will release will be spent on hundreds of new transport projects in the North and Midlands.

With the new service, it would take three hours to travel from Wrexham to London, thus avoiding waiting time in Birmingham. Train services have not been well served in Wrexham, Shrewsbury, and that part of the West Midlands.

There was already a direct service between Wrexham and London between 2008 and 2011, but it was discontinued due to heavy losses. According to Alstom, that service was much slower than what they would offer, and they would follow very different routes to pick up customers where the previously scheduled service did not stop.

Also, a new connection from London to Scotland

Last week, the ORR approved the plan for Grand Union Trains to start a new train service between London and Stirling in Scotland from June 2025. The same company is also expected to operate a direct train to Carmarthen, South Wales, from the end of this year.

Alstom, the world’s second-largest rail manufacturer, already operates rail services in other countries. It claims to be the largest private rail operator in North America.


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