WREXHAM’S all too brief encounter with an award-winning rail service came to an emotional, tear-filled conclusion on Friday when the very last Wrexham and Shropshire train left for London.
Last week the company, which was launched in 2008, announced it was ceasing trading due to a lack of profitability.
The news came in the same week that the Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway company had come top of a national rail passengers satisfaction survey with an outstanding rating of 96 per cent.
Friday marked the last day of operation and members of staff made sure the company went out in style with a memorable send off. The service to London was at 1.23pm with the return journey to Wrexham leaving at 6.33pm.
As the train came into Wrexham from London shortly after 1pm on Friday, it was applauded by a massed throng of passengers and well-wishers. Their numbers included rail enthusiasts from near and far who had made a special effort to be in Wrexham for this piece of history.
Workers from Wrexham and Shropshire had gone to a great deal of effort to ensure as many of them as possible were able to travel on the last service.
Catering supervisor Dot Crimes carried a special wreath, explaining it was a railway tradition when a company comes to an end.
Dot, of Borras, Wrexham, said: “There was a lot of crying and a lot of upset. People are going to miss each other. The train was absoltely rammed.
“At Shrewsbury there were two ladies at the station with a banner telling us how much they would miss us.
“The support was incredible. It was like being on the red carpet when we got to Marleybone because there were so many people taking photographs.
“It was very sad especially when we pulled back into Wrexham but we were amazed at all the people who welcomed us back. After all, we were the best.”
Dot, 62, has worked for the service since its launch in 2008.
The passengers coming into Wrexham from the London train on Friday afternoon included Barry and Catherine Edwards of Cefn Y Bedd.
They had just got back into the country after a three-week cruise, returning from Peru, and hadn’t been aware of Wrexham and Shropshire’s closure until they were in the UK again.
Mr Edwards said when they first heard the news they had been worried it would cause a problem for their travel arrangements home, but everything was in order.
“We were able to get back on the train no problem. It was quite a shock to hear what had happened. It is such a shame because this firm is so good. The staff are absolutely brilliant,” he said.
The man tasked with driving the final train down to London and back was Tony Stickells of Rhosnesni, who emphasised he was keeping his focus totally on the job.
“Obviously it is an emotional occasion, we are like one big family which is now breaking up. But I will be driving completely as normal.
“I don’t know what will be happening in the future. I hope to continue driving.”
One of the passengers travelling down to London was Ann Williams of Corwen, who said: “I think Wrexham and Shropshire provide an excellent service.
“I would like to wish the staff all the very best, they are always so friendly and efficient. It is sad to see them go.”
Rail enthusiast Chris Hollins of Widnes said: “This is a company that has come top of customer satisfaction and they give tremendous service. I have come here today for the last train from Wrexham.”
Some members of staff were hugging each other for support and crying as they boarded the train from Wrexham down to London.
Then the moment came to leave. As it moved out of the station for London on Friday afternoon the train gave out a string of final whistles goodbye as a poignant farewell to all the company and its outstanding dedicated workers had achieved together.