hidden europe 30

A matter of Principalities

by Nicky Gardner


A pot-pourri of railway-related facts that you would never have guessed could ever be so interesting. We leap from Wales to Monaco, from Liechtenstein to Vatican City in search of a few railway records. Not just for geeks!

We have never really thought of Wales as being one of Europe’s less developed countries. But media murmurings in February seemed to suggest that the Principality of Wales was on a par with Moldova and Albania. It turned out that the issue at stake was rail electrification. In truth we were rather surprised to find out that the land of leeks and daffodils cannot boast a single electrified railway line. But true it is. Electric trains from Liverpool and the Wirral run tantalisingly close to the Welsh border but stop at Chester.

Eleven hundred passenger trains run in Wales every day, and not one is an electric train. Not to mention all those heavy freight trains carrying steel from Llanwern or coal bound for Aberthaw. Every single one of them is hauled by diesel locomotives which, while no doubt tempting fodder for train spotters, do little to keep the Welsh valleys clean.

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