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Dan Munford: Wrexham and Shropshire's Mid Wales Express

Train_paterson Dan Munford, Chairman of the I Want a Referendum Campaign in Wales, pays tribute to Owen Paterson's campaign for a new train service.

America’s next first lady famously nearly ended her husband’s Presidential campaign with the truth that his popularity made her, for the first time in her adult life, proud to be an American. Not much has engendered the same British emotions in me in recent years. But, thanks to the campaign of one Conservative MP, there may now be light at the end of the tunnel.

Owen Paterson may not have created his own personal railway but he must certainly take much credit for a small, independent new “Wrexham & Shropshire” line train service that has appeared, like a ghost train in a Thomas the Tank story, to spirit Mid Wales business folk to London direct.

Spain may now have 190 mph trains but Britain has always been bad at big. We tend to cock it up. Even Branson’s American-like corporate magic doesn’t quite make it on the tracks. I have memories of waving goodbye to two generations of Munford business traveller from Shropshire stations. But the lines grew rusty, the direct services were cut and the only rail way to London was through a hell of missed connections in the Midlands.

No more. As I waited on the platform of Gobowen station, I remarked three things; firstly a sense of doubt about my prospects of catching the train safely – there was no platform indication and I had to guess it. Secondly, that I was the only passenger. And thirdly, that I now had severe concerns that choosing to receive my ticket as a barcode on my cell phone was a tad optimistic.

But the train rolled up on time and I was ushered into first class. As the only passenger in this carriage I could take my choice of seat. I stretched out in my state compartment and not many minutes had passed before I was greeted by my stewardess Ruth. Would I like the Welsh Lamb and Raspberry and Chocolate Bavarios served straight away? Oh yes, dinner is included in the 1st class £55 fare...

Where was the catch? And then it dawned. Like the unique Silverjet airline service for business class travellers to New York and Dubai, this service was doomed because Shropshire was still stuck on the M6 and hadn’t noticed that the World had changed. I engaged the train’s friendly South African conductor in some chit chat. Passenger numbers were up. New trains were on order. This late evening service was always very quiet, but most others are full. And to top it all, a German investor has just bought 50% of the stock! Now that last bit made me pay attention. Because the last time a German tried to take over our trains it was for use as troop transports.

I wonder if a deep understanding of what makes a Briton tick still harbours in the breast of your average Conservative MP?  If it does, then all is not lost. There may just be hope for us all. 


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