North Wales Coast Line

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North Wales Coast Line
Conwy bowling green and railway bridge.jpg
Type Heavy Rail
System National Rail
Locale Anglesey
Termini Crewe
Stations 18
Opened 1850
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Arriva Trains Wales
Virgin Trains
Character Coastal
Rolling stock Class 67
Class 150 "Sprinter"
Class 153 "Super Sprinter"
Class 158 "Express Sprinter"
Class 175 "Coradia"
Class 221 "SuperVoyagers"
Line length 84.38 miles (135.80 km)
No. of tracks Double track mostly except on Britannia Bridge between Bangor and Llanfair PG where it is single track
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed 90 mph (140 km/h) maximum
North Wales Coast Line
to Dublin Port
Stanley Embankment
Ty Croes
Anglesey Central Railway
Llanfair PG
Britannia Bridge over Menai Strait
Britannia Bridge
Bangor and Carnarvon Railway
Menai Bridge
Bethesda Branch
to Port Penrhyn
Conway Marsh
Conwy railway bridge over River Conwy
Llandudno Junction
Conwy Valley Line
Mochdre & Pabo
Colwyn Bay
Old Colwyn
Abergele & Pensarn
Vale of Clwyd Railway
Dyserth branch line
Holywell Junction
Holywell Branch Line
Connahs Quay
ShottonBorderlands Line
Mold Railway
Saltney Ferry
Shrewsbury to Chester Line
Roodee Viaduct over River Dee
Wirral Line Merseyrail
Chester-Manchester Line
Mid-Cheshire Line
Waverton (2nd site)
Waverton (1st site)
Whitchurch and Tattenhall Railway
Tattenhall Road
Beeston Castle and Tarporley
West Coast Main Line
Crewe-Manchester Line
Crewe-Derby Line
Welsh Marches Line
West Coast Main Line

The North Wales Coast Line (Welsh: Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru), also known as the North Wales Main Line,[1] is the railway line from Crewe to Holyhead. Virgin Trains consider their services along it to be a spur of the West Coast Main Line.

In April 2006, Network Rail organised its maintenance and train control operations into "26 Routes". The main line through Crewe forms part of Route 18 (The West Coast Main Line). The North Wales Coast Line from Crewe (North Junction) to Chester and North Wales has been designated Route 22 (North Wales and Borders) and this includes the line to Chester from Acton Grange Junction, south of Warrington. The line from Shrewsbury to Chester via Wrexham is Route 14 (South and Central Wales and Borders) (until Saltney Junction).

The line is not currently electrified, so Virgin trains have to use their Super Voyagers, which they have done since December 2007. There are no official plans to electrify the line but both the Welsh government and Chancellor George Osborne have indicated that there is a strong case for electrification in the future.

The line contains several notable engineering structures, namely Conwy railway bridge across the River Conwy, and Britannia Bridge across the Menai Strait.


The first section from Crewe to Chester was built by the Chester and Crewe Railway and absorbed by the Grand Junction Railway shortly before opening in 1840. The remainder was built between 1844 and 1850 by the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company as the route of the Irish Mail services to Dublin. The line was later incorporated in the London and North Western Railway. Between Chester and Saltney Junction, the line was, from the start, used by trains of the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway later to be incorporated in the Great Western Railway.

So important was the line in the 19th and early 20th centuries to passenger, mail and freight traffic between Britain and Ireland that the world's first experimental and operational water troughs were installed at Mochdre between Colwyn Bay and Llandudno Junction. Their purpose being to enable steam engines (especially on the Irish Mail) to collect water without stopping. Later, considerable stretches of line between Chester and Colwyn Bay were quadrupled to increase line capacity but these sections have now been reduced to two tracks.

Main calling points

The main towns served by the route are listed below:


Principal through passenger services are London Euston to Holyhead, Bangor, Chester and Wrexham General operated by Virgin Trains and Crewe to Holyhead, Cardiff to Holyhead and Manchester to Llandudno currently operated by Arriva Trains Wales (who replaced First North Western). A very much revised North Wales Passenger Timetable has operated since 11 December 2005 incorporating a new service to and from Cardiff Central every two hours. The line still provides the UK railway part of the through passenger service to Dublin using fast car ferries from Holyhead to Dublin Port or Dún Laoghaire. From Dún Laoghaire railway station the DART trains connect with Dublin Connolly.


The Welsh Government would like the line to be electrified, especially if Crewe becomes a rail hub due to HS2 in 2026.[2] Chancellor George Osbourne said in July 2015 that there was a "really strong case" for electrification of the line. [3] The Electrification Task Force said that that the Chester to Crewe line was a Tier 2 priority for being electrified in the CP6 period (2019-2024). [4]


  1. "Route Utilisation Strategy - Wales" (PDF). Network Rail. 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  2. Williamson, David (21 March 2014). "HS2 report has pushed electrification of North Wales rail line forward, Welsh Secretary claims". Wales Online. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  3. "'Strong case' for north Wales rail electrification". BBC News. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  4. "Electrification Task Force Final Report Revealed". Rail North. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 

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