North Wales Coast Line

The North Wales Coast Line (Welsh: Llinell Arfordir Gogledd Cymru),[1] also known as the North Wales Main Line (Welsh: Prif Linell Gogledd Cymru or Prif Linell y Gogledd),[2] is a major railway line in the north of Wales and Cheshire, England, running from Crewe on the West Coast Main Line to Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey. The line has 19 stations, with all except two, Chester and Crewe, being in Wales.

North Wales Coast Line
20303,20309 and 47818 , Colwyn Bay (1).jpg
North Wales Coast Line in Colwyn Bay along the Irish Sea
Other name(s)North Wales Main Line
Holyhead–Crewe line
Native nameLlinell Arfordir Gogledd Cymru
Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru
Prif Linell Gogledd Cymru
Prif Linell y Gogledd
Rheilffordd Cryw a Chaergybi
OwnerNetwork Rail
LocaleIsle of Anglesey
Conwy County Borough
TypeHeavy Rail
SystemNational Rail
Operator(s)Avanti West Coast
Transport for Wales Rail
Rolling stockClass 67
Class 150 "Sprinter"
Class 153 "Super Sprinter"
Class 158 "Express Sprinter"
Class 175 "Coradia"
Class 197 "Civity"
Class 221 "SuperVoyagers"
Line length105.5 miles (169.8 km)
Number of tracksDouble track mostly (except on the Britannia Bridge where there is single track)
CharacterMainly coastal
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed90 mph (140 km/h) maximum
Route map
North Wales Main line Map.png
North Wales Coast Line
Holyhead ferry/water interchange
Tŷ Croes
Britannia Bridge
Menai Bridge
Conway Marsh
Llandudno Junction
Mochdre & Pabo
Colwyn Bay
Old Colwyn
Abergele & Pensarn
Holywell Junction
Connah's Quay
Saltney Ferry
(Mold Railway services only)
Dee Bridge
over River Dee
Roodee Viaduct
Northgate Tunnel
Tattenhall Road
Beeston Castle and Tarporley
Crewe enlarge…

The line is not currently electrified, so Avanti West Coast, the current operator of the West Coast Partnership franchise, currently uses Class 221 Super Voyagers, which they have done since December 2007, on routes to Holyhead.

The line contains several notable engineering structures, including 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 into 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 into 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 was 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.

Modern dayEdit

In 2018, a £50 million signalling upgrade programme was completed between Shotton and Colwyn Bay. This upgrade saw modular colour lights supervised from the South Wales Rail Operating Centre in Cardiff replacing the manual signal boxes and mixture of semaphore and older colour lights.[3]

Main calling pointsEdit

The places served by the route are as follows:


Principal through passenger services are London Euston to Holyhead, Bangor, Chester and Wrexham General operated by Avanti West Coast and Crewe to Holyhead, Cardiff to Holyhead and Manchester to Llandudno currently operated by Transport for Wales Rail. A revised timetable has operated since 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.


North Wales Coast Line between Chester and Saltney, showing the two tracks over the River Dee. The path of the other two tracks which were removed can also be seen.

The Welsh Government would like the line to be electrified, especially if Crewe becomes a rail hub due to HS2 in 2026.[4] Chancellor George Osborne said in July 2015 that there was a "really strong case" for electrification of the line.[5] The Electrification Task Force said that the Chester to Crewe line was a Tier 2 priority for being electrified in the CP6 period (2019-2024).[6]

New trainsEdit

Class 221 units currently operate long-distance services to Holyhead from London Euston for Avanti West Coast. These are due to be replaced by Class 805 units in 2023. These new units will be able to run using the overhead wires from Euston to Crewe, before switching to diesel power from Crewe to Holyhead.[7]

Transport for Wales Rail operate regional services using Class 175 and Class 158 units. These will be replaced from 2022 onwards by Class 197 units.[8]

Proposed stationsEdit

There are two proposed railway stations on the line, proposed as part of the North Wales Metro. The two stations are both in Flintshire: at Greenfield and Broughton.[9][10]


  1. ^ Translation used for the service of the same name by Transport for Wales. "TfW Network Map" (PDF). Transport for Wales. Retrieved 8 December 2021. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "Route Utilisation Strategy - Wales" (PDF). Network Rail. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
  3. ^ £50m North Wales Railway Upgrade Project underway Network Rail Media Centre; Retrieved 4 August 2017
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "'Strong case' for north Wales rail electrification". BBC News. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Electrification Task Force Final Report Revealed". Rail North. 5 March 2015. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  7. ^ Hewitt, Sam (7 January 2020). "Hitachi wins £350 million order for new West Coast trains". The Railway Hub. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  8. ^ Clark, Rhodri (23 April 2020). "Concern about '197' interior spec". Modern Railways. Key Publishing Ltd. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  9. ^ TfW Metro Development 2021 - How we're developing Metro (March 2021) (PDF). Transport for Wales. March 2021. pp. 4, 7–8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  10. ^ "North Wales Metro: Future developments | Transport for Wales". Retrieved 15 December 2021.

Further readingEdit

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata
  • Allen, David (18 June – 1 July 1997). "Sun, sea, sand...and semaphores". Rail. No. 307. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 40–45. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.