I took a trip to Britain during the Easter Holidays of 2017. Part of my trip included a short visit to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff before it closed permanently in the summer. With my itinerary after Cardiff taking me to Liverpool, I had the opportunity to sample the regional services connecting Wales and England.
First published 4 July 2017. Updated 6 February 2023.
Preliminaries – Arriva Train Who?
At the time of my journey, most trains in Wales were operated by Arriva Trains Wales (Trenau Arriva Cymru in Cymraeg). ATW was a subsidiary of DB, the German train operator, and ran a fully diesel fleet across Wales’ un-electrified rail network.
There are no direct train services between Cardiff Central and Liverpool. Instead, I had to take an ATW service to Crewe, sit around for 50 minutes, then hop on a London Midland service to Liverpool. This was a journey of 3 hours and 55 minutes, with a 6:21 pm departure from Cardiff Central and a 9:33 pm departure from Crewe.
2023 Update: Arriva Trains Wales have been replaced by Transport for Wales. London Midland has also been replaced by London Northwestern Railways on the Crewe-Liverpool sector.
Booking my ticket
I booked my Advance Single ticket to Liverpool on Trainline, which cost me £24.75 including a 75p booking fee.
I recommend using Trainline for a one-stop solution to buying train tickets in Britain. With my ticket on my iPhone, I didn’t have to go through the hassle of fumbling with 2 printed tickets.
Departure experience at Cardiff Central
From my location at Cathays, I hopped on yet another local ATW Cardiff service to Cardiff Central station.
Cardiff Central is a rather quaint central station. While multi-tracked and certainly well sized to suit the intercity traffic passing through daily, its architecture gave it this rural feel, almost as it was meant to serve a rural Welsh town instead of Cardiff.
The train was a 2 car Class 175 DMU bound for Chester. The passenger load was decent and we departed Cardiff Central on time. The fun bit about Wales is that like Ireland, you are in the countryside not some 10 minutes out of the capital, and so we were soon speeding past fields and hills.
Cabin & Onboard Amenities
The Class 175 sets served ATW’s “express” regional routes, and were 18 years old by the time of this trip. Its interior was definitely showing its age.
As it was a very short train, there wasn’t any dining car or bistro counter onboard. I also don’t remember there being any trolley service as well. It was definitely a rather barebones service.
The Standard Class seats
The train was a single-class service consisting only of Standard Class. The seats were in a 2-2 configuration and was more or less the same as Standard Class seats used by other operators in Britain.
There was no recline, and the legroom felt a bit tight after a while. I got up for a walk up and down the train to stretch the limbs, but I don’t think I fancy doing longer sectors in this train.
The ride was generally stable and smooth, and I was able to get some revision work done. It was the start of the assignments season and I was anxious to make progress while travelling.
Interchange at Crewe
We soon pulled into Crewe station in the darkness. While Crewe is a major interchange station in the day, the same station at 9:00 pm feels like a dead zone.
The 50 minutes wait at Crewe bored me out of my mind. With no open restaurants in the station, I walked out to the nearby McDonalds for my dinner before my connecting train arrived.
London Midland Class 350 Desiro to Liverpool Lime Street
I greeted the arrival of my London Midland connection to Liverpool with a lot of relief. At that point I felt it was better to be on my way to Liverpool than to spend another minute at Crewe.
London Midland operated the Class 350 Desiro between Crewe and Lime Street. These are not intercity trains, but rather operate slower regional services. The seats aren’t the most comfortable, but I was tired enough that I simply zoned out for the rest of the trip.
Arrival at Liverpool Lime Street
An on time arrival at Lime Street capped off my 3 hours and 55 minutes of travelling. It had been a tiring one, and I was very keen to get some rest for the night.
As it was already past 10:00 pm, Lime Street was very quiet – far removed from its usual buzz in the day.
Both train connections were regional level services with a bare bones level of service. They got the job done, but it wasn’t something I’d look forward to doing again in the future.