Saturday 6th August 2022
It’s the smallest town I’ve visited in my fortnightly AtoZ safaris but there aren’t many O options to choose from.
Oswestry’s population at around 17,000 means it’s not my normal ‘mid size’ town for a visit although by Shropshire standards it is in fact the second largest town in the unitary county, after Shrewsbury; improving its ranking once Telford left to form the separate Telford & Wrekin Council in 2009.
The town is located on the western fringes of Shropshire just five miles from the Welsh border. Wrexham lies 15 miles north, Shrewsbury is 19 miles south east and Welshpool is 15 miles south. The A5 forms a north south bypass to the east of the town.
Oswestry is also the first town I’ve visited in this series without a rail station.
Except that needs clarification. Oswestry is the first town I’ve visited in this series without a station on the National Rail network.
Cambrian Heritage Railways runs a heritage service from the rather grand former station building located in the centre of the town that was once a hive of activity on the Cambrian lines that connected Oswestry with Newtown and many other destinations in Wales.
When I visited Oswestry on Wednesday the Heritage Railway was running a Pacer up and down between Oswestry and south to Weston. It’s just a 10 minute ride at the moment but there are aspirations to resurrect the link to the main line at Gobowen, a couple of miles north of Oswestry.
Indeed the DfT awarded funding to Cambrian Heritage Railways in its Restoring Your Railway Round 3 enabling a Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) to be prepared for the project.
Consultants have been appointed and initial thoughts are to run light rail style units similar to currently operating on the Stourbridge shuttle. It’s hoped to submit a completed SOBC to the DfT this autumn.
Bearing in mind the track and connection to the main line is in place, albeit it would need considerable upgrade, it looks to me as one of the more sensible proposals in the Restoring Your Railway portfolio of otherwise somewhat kite flying projects.
However some thought will be need to be given how the railway line crosses the A5 (also called A483 as per the above image from Google maps) as the level crossing may not be regarded as suitable for modern day traffic levels.
Gobowen railway station still displays heritage signage proclaiming it’s “FOR OSWESTRY” on both platforms harking back to the days when it truly was a junction for the town.
The Cambrian Line closed in 1965 although a shuttle from Gobowen to Oswestry continued for a while but that also closed in 1966.
Sadly although Arriva operate two bus routes between Gobowen and Oswestry (route 2 Oswestry – Wrexham and route 53 Oswestry – Ellesmere) connections between bus and train aren’t very good but then it’s always difficult to provide decent connections in both directions for both arriving and departing passengers on both modes on through routes.
Maybe one day a Gobowen-Oswestry light rail shuttle will sort that.
There’s already a short stretch of track alongside platform 2 ready and waiting.
Oswestry does have a bus station which is conveniently located albeit a bit far from the town’s main retail centre. However the five short town routes don’t actually serve it but instead use the Sainsbury’s store about a 3 minute walk away as their town centre focal point.
Despite prominent signs advertising the bus station’s existence I’m sorry to report the four bus stops in the two lane section of road forming the bus station are in an appalling state.
And it looks like they’ve been in this deplorable state for some considerable time.
What an awful image to portray to passengers let alone try and entice new passengers.
A completely unsatisfactory state of affairs which would cost peanuts to put right. One of the shelters is also in desperate need of repair.
There’s a real time sign in this shelter (not the others) but suffice to say it wasn’t working.
Timetables for each bus service are displayed on the wall of the adjacent Aldi supermarket by bus stops 1 and 2….
…. but graffiti obscures vital information of at least one service.
There’s another display showing rail timetables for Gobowen which is all very impressively multi-modal until you look more closely and see they’re dated May 2015. Let me just write that again. Rail timetables dated May 2015 are on display at the town’s bus station. Shame on you Shropshire Council.
There are departure time listings by each of the four bus stops which amazingly actually looked up to date.
As already mentioned Arriva operate half hourly routes 2/2A to Wrexham …
… and 53 to Ellesmere …
…. as well as the hourly route X5 direct to Shrewsbury and on to Telford …
… and the two-hourly route 576 to Shrewsbury via Baschurch….
… although there seemed to be some additional 576 Shuttle journeys running last Wednesday afternoon with a former Click vehicle which I couldn’t work out what they were as there didn’t seem to be a reference to them anywhere.
Other notable routes from outside the area are the six journey a day route 449 to Ellesmere via Whittington operated by Lakeside Coaches (not shown on the “not comprehensive” timetable display, by the way) ….
….. and the TrawsCymru branded hourly route T12 from Wrexham to Oswestry, Welshpool and Machynlleth operated by Lloyds Coaches.
There are rural routes including routes 72/73/74 to Llanfyllin and routes 79/79A to Llangedwyn all operated by Tanat Valley Coaches and a peak hour route 71 to Llanymynech operated by Arriva.
There’s also the charming circular route 78 to Llansilin which runs just two off peak journeys on Wednesdays and Fridays which I couldn’t resist a ride on having arrived in Oswestry on Wednesday in time to sample the second (and last) rounder of the day with a 13:15 departure (the first one bring at 10:00),
It’s operated by Owen’s Travelmaster – a company which also does coach tours – and was being driven by a father and son combo – the former tutoring and mentoring the latter which was nice to see.
The departure was from stand 3 which the bus approached from the nearside but Dad made sure any prospective passengers were aware and in the event it was only me wanting to travel.
We headed out to Llansilin through some lovely country roads with great scenery and arrived in the village about 23 minutes later and much to Dad’s surprise a passenger heading into Oswestry boarded. Dad reckoned this was “very unusual” not least as the next bus back wouldn’t be until 10:00 on Friday.
On arriving back in Oswestry the bus heads off on route 73 to Melfod and Llanfair Caereinion, another Wednesday and Friday only one return journey affair. I didn’t see anyone board the bus as it departed at 14:00.
I wandered over to Sainsbury’s to check out the four town routes numbered 400, 402, 403 and 404 which all call at the supermarket before doing a short circuit of the town’s residential areas.
Journey times are short. In fact they’re strong contenders for the title of Britain’s Shortest Bus Route and would probably win if it wasn’t for Rosso’s route 13 to New Hall Hey (2 minutes out and 4 minutes back from Rawtenstall bus station). But I digress.
I took a ride on half hourly route 402 which does its circuit to the rather plush Balmoral Crescent and back to Sainsbury’s in 17 minutes. We carried half a dozen out and brought five back in.
The bus then does a 403 to Bradley Fields and back (which runs hourly) which passes by the Post Office and is back there again just seven minutes later followed by a round trip on the hourly 404 taking just eight minutes to get back to Sainsbury’s.
Route 400 takes a leisurely 25 to 30 minutes for its circuit via Unicorn Road and oddly hibernates for four hours after the morning peak until lunchtime when its roughly half hourly frequency gets going again.
As you can see the town routes are run by Tanat Valley Coaches with a rather smart looking fleet of Mercedes Sprinters….
… and before that they were operated by Arriva as the bus stop flag outside Sainsbury’s still displays.
Also, for a town the size of Oswestry, it’s impressive to see the provision of what’s called a “Night Bus” on Friday and Saturday nights except it’s more an evening and late evening service with six hourly journeys from 19:30 through to 00:15 doing a 30 minute round the town trip. It looks as though its funded by BID Oswestry – the Business Improvement District for the town which local businesses will be funding.
And it doesn’t end there. There’s also an “Oswestry Village Circular Night Bus” providing four circular journeys taking an hour 18:00, 20:00, 23:30 and 00:45 also on Fridays and Saturdays.
Numbers travelling were quite good for a town of its size, as is the overall service provision. As always it’s a great shame there’s no map to show where the bus routes go and what’s available. As we’ve discussed many times on these blogs, maps are essential and are a key missing ingredient in Oswestry’s public transport offer.
As is the lack of attention to the display of information and the condition of bus stops and shelters.
The bus stop served by bus routes other than town routes at Sainsbury’s could do with some much needed TLC.
The bus stop flag proudly proclaims route 70 linking Oswestry with Shrewsbury….
… but it doesn’t as the timetable displays in the shelter confirm, as there’s no reference to it. It doesn’t exist.
But to end on a positive, Oswestry is a very pleasant market town. I very much enjoyed my visit and taking a look around.
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