Wales and West

Wales & West
Franchise(s): Wales & West
13 October 1996 - 13 October 2001
Main region(s): Wales, South West
Other region(s): West Midlands, North West
Route km operated: 2525 [1]
National Rail abbreviation: WW
Parent company: Prism Rail

Wales & West[2] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom that operated the South Wales & West franchise from 1996 until 2001.

The franchise was operated by Prism Rail from October 1996 until July 2000, when the firm was taken over by National Express.[3][4] The company ceased to operate trains in October 2001, following a reorganization of rail franchises.


Originally privatized under the name South Wales and West Railway, the company operated a network of local and middle-distance services in South Wales and the south west of England. These ranged from rural services in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire to urban commuter services in the Bristol area.

Longer-distance services operated under the Alphaline brand provided regular links to North Wales and the north west of England, as well as to the South Coast and London Waterloo.[5]

Wales and West received considerable government subsidy. The first full financial year (1997/98) was supported by a payment of £70.9 million, with expenditure due to reduce to £38.1 million for its final trading year of 2003/4. The provisional claim from British Rail for the year 1996/97 had been £84.8 million, including an administered profit of £4.8 million.[1]

Rolling stock

Wales & West inherited a fleet of Class 143, Class 150, Class 153 and Class 158s from British Rail. Wales & West also hired-in some locomotive-hauled trains on occasion.[6]

Class Image Type Top speed Built
mph km/h
Class 143 Pacer Diesel multiple unit 75 120 1985–1986
Class 150 Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 75 120 1984–1987
Class 153 Super Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 75 120 1987–1988
Class 158 Express Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 90 145 1989–1992

Wales & West's fleet was maintained at Cardiff Canton and Exeter depots.


Wales & West carried out various enhancements to their 78-vehicle Class 158 fleet[1] including new carpets, internal repainting and upgrades to air conditioning equipment. Seating was replaced throughout, with a revised layout offering a greater proportion of seats at tables and fewer airline-style seats.

One member of the Class 158 fleet was used to trial additional safety features. This included an airline-style lighting strip along the carriage aisle leading to the exits and illuminated arrows above internal doorways.[7] In time, most of the company's trains also received an automated system of pre-recorded safety announcements.

Prism Rail also gave an undertaking to install passenger information displays at 205 stations.[8] This ambitious project went on to cost Prism significantly more than expected, with no chance of recouping its investment - but the commitment was upheld and the project completed. Even the remote Sugar Loaf station that typically receives fewer than 100 passengers per year was equipped.[9]

Other improvements committed to included:[1]

Corporate Identity

By the end of the 1990s, the company had started to develop its own vehicle liveries to replace those inherited from Regional Railways. An experimental silver, blue and orange livery carried by 158867[10] evolved into a dedicated silver and navy livery for the flagship Alphaline fleet.[11] The rest of the fleet began to receive an array of different promotional liveries featuring locations from the company's operating area.[12]

The shortened Wales and West name was adopted to replace the original identity of South Wales & West Railway, with various updates to the company logo taking place.


In 2000 the Strategic Rail Authority announced its intention that a single all-Wales franchise should take over the majority of rail services in Wales.[13] Accordingly, the Wales and West franchise ceased to operate in October 2001. Its operations in Wales and the Marches were merged into those of Cardiff-based Valley Lines and renamed as Wales and Borders Trains. The remaining services in south west England began operating under the name of Wessex Trains.[14]


  1. 1 2 3 4
  2. Companies House extract company 3011029 Wales & West Passenger Trains Limited
  3. National Express buys Prism for £166m The Telegraph 19 July 2000
  4. National Express buys Prism for £166m The Guardian 19 July 2000
  5. Wales & West route map
  7. "Train Safety Signage". Flickr. 30 January 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  9. Pettitt, Gordon; Comfort, Nick (2015). The Regional Railways Story. Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 9780860936633.
Preceded by
Regional Railways
As part of British Rail
Operator of Wales & West franchise
1996 - 2001
Succeeded by
Wales & Borders
Wales & Borders franchise
Succeeded by
Wessex Trains
Wessex Trains franchise
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