Wales & Borders franchise

The Wales & Borders franchise (Welsh: Masnachfraint Cymru a'r Gororau) is a railway franchise for passenger services in the United Kingdom, operated since 7 February 2021 by publicly-owned operator, Transport for Wales Rail. The franchise covers the majority of rail services in Wales, with some services in the bordering English regions and counties, notably North West England, the West Midlands, and Gloucestershire.

Wales & Borders
Cymru a'r Gororau
Current operatorTransport for Wales Rail
Main service area(s)Wales, North West England, the West Midlands, and Gloucestershire.
Dates of operation14 October 2001 – 6 December 2003: Wales & Borders
7 December 2003 – 13 October 2018: Arriva Trains Wales
14 October 2018 – 6 February 2021: KeolisAmey Wales
7 February 2021 – present: Transport for Wales Rail
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Current operator service map
Current operator service map


Wales & BordersEdit

In March 2000, the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority announced plans to create a separate Wales & Borders franchise.[1][2] In October 2001, the Valley Lines and Wales & West franchises were restructured as Wales & Borders and Wessex Trains, with the former taking responsibility for most services in Wales, including the Cambrian line services from Central Trains. All franchises were operated by National Express.[3][4]

In September 2003, the services from Birmingham New Street, Crewe and Manchester Piccadilly to Llandudno and Holyhead, as well as those between Bidston and Wrexham Central and Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog, operated by First North Western, were transferred to the Wales & Borders franchise.[2][5]

Arriva Trains WalesEdit

In October 2002, a shortlist of Arriva, Connex/GB Railways, National Express and Serco-Abellio were invited to bid for the next franchise.[6][7] In December 2003, Arriva commenced a 15-year contract to operate the franchise until 2018, trading as Arriva Trains Wales.[8][9][10]

KeolisAmey WalesEdit

In October 2016, Abellio, Arriva, a Keolis/Amey joint venture and MTR Corporation were shortlisted to bid for the next franchise,[11][12] which would be operated under the Transport for Wales brand.[13] In October 2017, Arriva withdrew from the bidding process.[14][15] Abellio withdrew in February 2018 following the collapse of its partner Carillion in January.[16] In May 2018, it was awarded to KeolisAmey Wales for a 15-year period from 14 October 2018 in a contract worth £5 billion.[17] The contract aimed to deliver much-needed investment in the Welsh network, including:[18]

  • £800M investment in trains
  • £194M to modernise 247 stations and build five brand new Metro stations
  • 285 extra services Monday to Friday
  • 294 extra Sunday services

In March 2020, an initial short-term agreement worth £40 million was confirmed, to assist the rail network during the March lockdown, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On 31 May 2020, an Emergency Measures Agreement was approved to assist KeolisAmey Wales; it detailed that the Welsh Government has announced that it will spend up to £65 million over the next six months to ensure trains continue to operate on the franchise.[19]

Welsh GovernmentEdit

In October 2020, the Welsh Government announced that the franchise was to be transferred to a publicly owned operator of last resort, Transport for Wales Rail, following significant falls in passenger numbers and revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[20][21]

All staff, rolling stock and services operated by KeolisAmey Wales were be taken over by the nationalised operator on 7 February 2021.[22] As part of the original agreement, Keolis and Amey continue to be responsible for infrastructure on the Core Valley Lines, where the South Wales Metro upgrade is set to take place. In addition, Keolis and Amey will continue to assist and work with the nationalised operator to provide improvements to services on the franchise, such as rolling stock and ticketing services.[23][24]


  1. ^ "SSRA redraws franchise map" Railway Gazette International August 2000 page 459
  2. ^ a b The Wales and Borders Franchise House of Commons Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Third Report 17 March 2004
  3. ^ "Wales & West splits ready for new franchise" Rail issue 417 5 September 2001 page 11
  4. ^ "Central's Welsh trains go to Wales & Borders" Rail issue 422 14 November 2001 page 16
  5. ^ "First North Western in split" The Railway Magazine issue 1202 June 2001 page 11
  6. ^ "Four still in race for Wales & Borders" Rail issue 446 16 October 2002 page 12
  7. ^ "Dutch plan a Welsh invasion" The Railway Magazine issue 1221 January 2003 page 6
  8. ^ "Arriva preferred bidder for 15-year Wales franchise" Rail issue 468 20 August 2003 page 13
  9. ^ "Arriva wins Wales & Borders" Rail Express issue 88 September 2003 page 6
  10. ^ "Arriva to operate Wales & Borders" The Railway Magazine issue 1230 October 2003 page 35
  11. ^ Rail operator shortlist revealed Welsh Government 12 October 2016
  12. ^ Wales & Borders bidders asked to propose Metro options Railway Gazette International 13 October 2016
  13. ^ "TfW to replace operator's branding". Rail. Press Reader. 30 August 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  14. ^ Arriva pulls out of Wales & Borders franchise contest International Railway Journal 30 October 2017
  15. ^ Arriva Trains Wales drops out of Welsh rail franchise bid BBC News 30 October 2017
  16. ^ "Abellio ends rail bid after Carillion collapse". BBC News. 23 February 2018. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  17. ^ Wales' rail and metro franchise to be run by KeolisAmey BBC News 23 May 2018
  18. ^ "New trains and more services in £5bn deal". BBC News. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  19. ^ "Up to £65 million set aside to keep Wales' railway running". GOV.WALES. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  20. ^ Written Statement: Future of Rail update Welsh Government 22 October 2020
  21. ^ Transport for Wales rail services to be nationalised BBC News 22 October 2020
  22. ^ "Wales & Borders rail franchise taken into public ownership". Railway Gazette International. 8 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  23. ^ Welsh Government takes control of franchise The Railway Magazine issue 1436 November 2020 page 6
  24. ^ Welsh Government takes control of Wales & Borders Rail issue 917 4 November 2020 page 14