Above: Wrexham & Shropshire staff pose for last-day photos at London Marylebone station
Today was a sad day. A rail company that was loved by its passengers closed, ending the short lived revival of train services from Wrexham to London. Wrexham & Shropshire achieved the best rail customer satisfaction ratings in Britain. But not enough people used the service to make it pay.
We enjoyed seeing the Wrexham trains race through our local station in the days when Karen and I commuted to London. It was a nostalgic reminder of the days when expresses were hauled by locomotives (Wrexham & Shropshre used class 67 freight engines and sleek British Rail Mark 3 coaches, many still in 1970s blue & grey livery). I hoped to take Owen on the Wrexham train when he was a little older, but we won't get the chance now.
We were always concerned that the coaches looked empty. Just a year after the service started, W&S ran a successful campaign against Virgin Trains, which threatened to launch a rival service, as I blogged in May 2009. W&S survived that threat, but the writing was on the wall. The Guardian's John Vidal reported that same month that the service was wonderful but slow. W&S was forbidden from calling at busy stations en route but had to crawl through them. But he waxed lyrically about the North Walian train crew and the lamb shank, veg and wine.
By chance, I was in London today and witnessed the sad scenes as W&S staff posed for photographers at Marylebone. I hope they find new jobs, as they will be a huge asset for any organisation that cares about its customers. As I write this, the very last train is on its way north to Wrexham.
Here are some scenes from Wrexham & Shropshire's last day, including a mug they gave me at Marylebone!