Borderlands line

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The Borderlands line (Welsh: Llinell y Gororau) is the railway line between Wrexham, Wales and Bidston on the Wirral in England.

Borderlands line
Borderlands Railway Line, Bidston-by-E-Pollock.jpg
Class 150 DMU on the Borderlands line near Bidston
OwnerNetwork Rail
TerminiWrexham Central
Bidston (Birkenhead)
Stations15 with Wrexham General and Shotton as interchanges with main line services
TypeHeavy rail
SystemNational Rail
Operator(s)Transport for Wales
Rolling stockClass 150 Sprinter
Number of tracksDouble track throughout except Wrexham General to Wrexham Central
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Route map
Map of the Wirral showing the Borderlands line running south from Birkenhead through Neston onwards to Wrexham.[1]
Bidston Merseyrail
Bidston Sidings
Burton Point
Sealand Rifle Range Halt
Birkenhead Junction
Golf Club Platform
Shotton Paper
Deeside Industrial Park
Chester Golf Club Halt
Hawarden Bridge
North Wales Coast Line
Castle Cement
Hope Exchange
Chester–Denbigh line
Penyffordd Sidings
Cegidog Viaduct
over River Cegidog
Gwersyllt Junction
WM&CQ Brymbo branch
Rhosddu Halt
Wrexham General
Wrexham Central

Passenger train services are operated by Transport for Wales between the southern terminal of Wrexham Central and Bidston in the north. Bidston is an interchange station for Merseyrail services to Liverpool and West Kirby. Trains run every hour Monday to Saturday daytime, every two hours after 18:45 and on Sundays. Connections with other National Rail services are at Bidston (changing for Merseyrail services to West Kirby, Birkenhead and Liverpool Lime Street for London and long haul national routes), Shotton (change for Chester and London trains and the North Wales Coast line) and Wrexham General (for the Shrewsbury–Chester line).

The line is also referred to as the Mid Wirral line, as most of the line runs north–south through the middle of the Wirral peninsula. The line is to introduce bi-modal battery electric diesel trains in 2020.[2] The Wirral's other railway routes are provided with frequent Merseyrail electric trains. The Borderlands line has a service of one train per hour. From 2021 the service will improve to two trains per hour using fully refurbished ex-London Underground D78 stock trains, classified as Class 230, with primarily battery power plants with a diesel engine as a fail-safe.[3][4]

Holders of the Concessionary Travel Pass resident in Wrexham and Flintshire can travel free along part of the line, from Wrexham Central Station to Hawarden Bridge Station.[5] Holders of the Merseytravel Concessionary Travel Pass can travel free along the section of the line that runs through Merseyside, from Heswall Station to Bidston Station.

Passenger servicesEdit

The service is normally operated with Class 150 trains. It was formerly operated by Class 153s, Class 101s, and Class 142s. In October 2006, the operator moved to using Class 150s or paired Class 153 units. The latter disappeared in favour of the Class 150s in December 2006.

Community railEdit

This is designated as a community rail partnership.[6]

The franchiseEdit

Upon privatisation, passenger services were transferred from Regional Railways to North West Trains, later known as First North Western. In 2003, a review led to the creation of the All-Wales Franchise, meaning services were transferred to Wales & Borders Trains. Arriva Trains Wales succeeded Wales & Borders on 8 December 2003, and operated all passenger services on the line until October 2018, when Transport for Wales began its 15 franchise. Future electrification plans could see the line transfer to Merseyrail.[7]

Infrastructure historyEdit

Borderlands line

The southern part of the line was built by the Wrexham, Mold and Connah's Quay Railway (WMCQR) in 1864 and the northern part by the North Wales and Liverpool Railway, a joint committee of the WMCQR and the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in 1896. The North Wales and Liverpool Railway northern terminus was at Bidston with the southern terminus at Hawarden Bridge[8] Both railways were acquired by the Great Central Railway on 1 January 1905.

Two Wirral stations on the line closed in the 1950s; Storeton in 1951 and Burton Point in 1955. No trace of the station at Storeton remains, yet Burton Point station is still almost entirely intact, the station buildings currently forming part of a garden centre.[9] Further south, the high level platforms of Hope Exchange closed in 1958.[10]

The northern terminal of the Borderlands Line has been at four different stations at various times: Bidston, Birkenhead North, Birkenhead Park (briefly in the late 60s), New Brighton and Seacombe.[11][12]


The doubling of the journey frequency on the line is one of the aims of the Growth Track 360 group, a consortium of business, politicians and public sector leaders. The group aims to improve transport and create jobs in the North Wales, Merseyside and Cheshire area over the next 20 years.[13] During the 2017 Autumn budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond stated that part of the additional £1.2 billion funding Wales was receiving would be used to look into proposals to improve journey times on the line and developing a business case.[14]

Proposed new stationsEdit

New stations at Deeside Industrial Park, Woodchurch and Beechwood have been proposed.[15] The route was mentioned in Merseytravel's proposed 30-year plan of 2014.

"New stations at Beechwood and Woodchurch in Birkenhead (the latter "would be around junction 3 of the M53, the Prenton/Oxton side") and Deeside Industrial Park. These changes would "Incorporate the line into the Merseyrail Wirral line to provide direct connectivity with Liverpool city centre."[16]

The draft of the Network Rail Welsh Route Study in March 2015 contained several suggestions for improving services on the line, including:.[17]

  • Replacing the High and Low levels at Shotton station with a dedicated interchange station, improving connectivity between the North Wales Coast Main Line & the Borderlands line
  • The removal of level crossings to improve line speed.

Proposed electrificationEdit

Proposals exist to electrify a section[15] or all of the line with incorporation into the Wirral line of the Merseyrail network, allowing through services to the underground sections of Birkenhead and Liverpool and onwards to Liverpool John Lennon Airport.[18] A study conducted by Network Rail in 2008, investigated the costs of extending the Merseyrail network third-rail electrification to Wrexham. However, when the cost was estimated at £207 million,[19] Merseytravel stated that cheaper overhead-wire electrification would also be considered announcing a lower estimated figure of £66 million.[20] This scheme would require dual-voltage trains with third-rail and overhead-wire capability.[21]

Network Rail's conclusion was that full line electrification is only feasible if it could be delivered for less than £100,000 for each km per single track. The twin track line would be £200,000 per line km, giving a total figure of £8.7 million, which is far below the estimate of full line electrification of £66 million. Another consideration is whether a new pattern of service delivers significant net benefits.[22]

Political pressure to electrify the line has been ongoing.[23] The Welsh Government is pressing for improved rail connections between North Wales and Liverpool which may accelerate the electrification of the line.[24]

Merseytravel Committee Chairman, Councillor Liam Robinson, revealed in 2016 that a working group had been set up to examine improving the line. It is believed that by increasing the frequency of trains, the number of passengers will increase making the case for electrification stronger.[25] Merseytravel expect that frequency improvements on the line will be delivered as part of CP6, which has a potential delivery timescale of up to 2024.[26] Councillor Robinson revealed in an interview in 2017 that passenger use on the line had increased 75% over the previous decade but electrification was still a long-term aspiration. He also stated that the new rolling stock that was being procured for Merseyrail could be utilised to run on the line.[27]

Proposed battery trainsEdit

Class 230 battery (hybrid) trains are to be introduced in 2020
Inside the refurbished trains

The operation of battery trains that receive energy from batteries and an electric pick-up has been proposed for operation on unelectrified and electrified sections of the track. Adoption of these types of trains would reduce the need for full line electrification.[17]

A trial of a converted Electrostar train using energy from overhead wires and batteries when on non-electrified sections of track was undertaken in January and February 2015 on the Mayflower line. The train travelled up to 60 miles on energy stored in the batteries also recharging the batteries via the overhead-wires when on electrified track, at stations and via brake regeneration.[28] A month later in March 2015, the introduction of battery powered trains was proposed for the Borderlands line by Network Rail.[17]

The Network Rail document suggested that consideration had been given to electrification and to extending the terminus from Bidston further into Birkenhead for greater connectivity. However these options were expressed as offering low value for money. The document proposes that using battery powered rolling stock precluding full electrification of the line, provides a cheaper method of increasing connectivity and extending the service into the electrified Birkenhead and Liverpool sections of the Wirral line. From the document:

"In the longer term, potential deployment of rolling stock with the ability to operate on battery power for part of their journey may provide the ability in an affordable manner to improve the service offering between the Wrexham – Bidston route and Liverpool."[17]

It was announced in June 2018 that refurbished Class 230 former London Underground D78 stock trains with battery power plants and a diesel engine as a failsafe, are to be introduced between Wrexham and Bidston.[3][29][30] The trains were passed for passenger use for 2020 introduction.[31] There is an intention to extend from Bidston onto the Merseyrail Wirral Line taking trains into the Liverpool and Birkenhead underground sections on electrified 3rd rail track using bimodal trains with a 3rd rail pickup.[32]


  1. ^ "Borderlands Line Route" (PDF). Borderlands Line. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Borderlands Homepage".
  6. ^ "ACORP Summary map" (PDF). Association of Community Rail Partnerships. 28 July 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  7. ^ "The Wrexham to Bidston railway (The Borderlands line): Electrification plans". Retrieved 17 February 2007.
  8. ^ Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (2013). Wrexham to New Brighton. West Sussex: Middleton Press. map XXXIII. ISBN 9781908174475. OCLC 859543196.
  9. ^ "Station Name: BURTON POINT". Disused Stations. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Station Name: Hope High Level Station". Disused Stations. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "About Growth Track 360". Growth Track 360. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  14. ^ "Budget gives extra £1.2bn to Wales". BBC News. 22 November 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Merseytravel's plans to carry out further studies into the electrification of the railway track". Wirral Globe. 29 September 1999. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  16. ^ Shennan, Paddy (28 August 2014). "Merseytravel plan to open or reopen host of new stations". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  17. ^ a b c d "Welsh Route Study – Draft for Consultation". Network Rail. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  18. ^ "The Wrexham to Bidston railway (The Borderlands line): Electrification plans". Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  19. ^ "Merseytravel fury over £207m price tag for Bidston-Wrexham rail link". Wirral News. Liverpool. 5 November 2008. Archived from the original on 8 January 2009.
  20. ^ "The Wrexham to Bidston railway (The Borderlands line): Electrification plans". Penmorfa. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  21. ^ "The Wrexham to Bidston railway (The Borderlands line): Electrification plans". Penmorfa. Retrieved 17 February 2007.
  22. ^ "Network RUS Electrification" (PDF). October 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  23. ^ Hughes, Owen (29 January 2013). "Plea for £2bn windfall for Wales after high speed rail announcement". Daily Post. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  24. ^ "Progress on Liverpool-North Wales rail link". North Wales Weekly News. Conwy. 25 October 2012.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "Loop line renewal is 'short-term pain worth long-term gain of rail boost' writes MerseyTravel chief". Wirral Globe. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  26. ^ "Agenda item – Rail Schemes Development and Delivery". Merseytravel. 3 November 2016. Archived from the original on 2 December 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  27. ^ "The Halton Curve: Small piece of track, big rail ambitions". Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  28. ^ Clinnick, Richard (13 January 2015). "Battery-powered Electrostar enters traffic". RAIL. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  29. ^[dead link]
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^

External linksEdit