LLANGOLLEN Railway is expected to welcome trains back onto its tracks this week.

The Llangollen Railway Trust (LRT) aims to resume train services from Friday (July 9) subject to inspection and approval of maintenance work carried out on the River Dee Bridge. 

Initially, it will be an hourly Llangollen to Berwyn shuttle service using the diesel railcars operating Fridays – Sundays.

The railway’s future was thrown into uncertainty in March when joint-administrators of Llangollen Railway PLC, went bust.

But, having sold the business and some of its assets to Llangollen Railway Trust Limited for an undisclosed amount two months or so later, the popular site is now on the right track to welcoming visitors back.

A week-long effort by volunteers saw the bridge work completed on Friday, July 2. 
This finalised renewal work started in March when new baulk timbers were installed prior the PLC receiver suspending work.

The bridge is due to be inspected by an independent engineer for approval before the work can be signed off. The railway’s engineer will also inspect the track between the bridge and Berwyn Tunnel before trains can start running to Berwyn.

Operations Director, Mike Williams, said: “An enormous amount of work has been necessary before LRT can run revenue earning train services, with a prime need to complete the railway’s Safety Management System for approval. We have also started Re-Fresh sessions for all operations staff and have begun Competency Examinations to ensure staff are fully qualified after so long a lay-off from their duties.”

The railway last ran trains on October 1, 2020 at the start of the pandemic lockdown; a subsequent reopening was delayed by the PLC going into receivership.

The LRT is now the operating company and has been striving to acquire assets and funding to allow train services to resume – which aim is now in sight.

All services will be using the heritage diesel units provided by Llangollen Railcars. 
Their spokesman, John Joyce said: “We are expecting to roster the class 108 Derby set for July 9. The class 109 Wickham set is in reserve, if demand warrants additional seats, subject to social distancing. After an eight-month layover the units have been subject to checks and test runs in to Llangollen station for crew refresher sessions.

“Trains will depart Llangollen hourly, Fridays to Sundays, from 11am through to 4pm and allow a 15-minute stopover at Berwyn to enjoy the view of the Dee Gorge or sample the Chain Bridge. Other options for passengers are to visit the Horseshoe Falls or take the traditional walk back to Llangollen along the canal.

“Running a heritage DMU service to Berwyn will be recreating the pioneering days of 1986/87 when services at Llangollen first extended across the Dee bridge. We hope our supporters will turn out and buy a ticket to ride the shuttle if revenues are to cover operational costs and make a contribution to the railway’s overheads when costs like insurance and utility bills remain substantial expenses for the LRT.”

For Friday evening (July 9), two special trains will run to Berwyn in connection with the civic occasion to mark International Musical Eisteddfod week when the road bridge in Llangollen is due to be illuminated.

Llangollen Railway Trust chairman, Peter Edwards, said: “Llangollen Railway are delighted to be able to return to operation with a limited service to Berwyn on Friday 9th.

“This is the result of a massive effort by volunteers at the railway and is also indicative of the significant support we’ve had from agencies and elected representatives. There is much more to do before we are running along the full length of the line, but we hope this marks the beginning of a new chapter in the story of our railway and its place in the Dee Valley.”

Looking beyond Berwyn station, there are essential engineering works needed in the Berwyn Tunnel, the West End Point work at Glyndyfrdwy station to relay and repairs to Occupational Crossings at Carrog.

Once the Berwyn Tunnel work is finished, train services can extend to Glyndyfrdwy, initially again using diesel unit traction until the west end points become available. When run round facilities are operational at Glyndyfrdwy, the options are for using Steam or Diesel loco hauled services.

Upon completion of the Occupational Crossings, trains will start running to Carrog, hopefully by early August.