railway versus road A55 North Wales
Railway versus Road
The arrival of the A55 dual-carriageway in the Colwyn Bay area
And its impact on the North Wales mainline.

This is the second series of photographs from the camera of John Powell. It features an in-depth look at the changes required to the North Wales mainline following the construction of the A55 dual-carriageway through the area. These views tend to be of a panoramic nature, there are no close-ups of locomotives or railcars on this page. The photographs cover the period 1982 - 1986, the construction period for the A55.

The locations are arranged in an east to west order, with photographs arranged chronologically at each location.

The improvements affected the route between Abergele & Llanfairfechan. Since the railway occupied the prime location along this route the new road would require to cross the line six times, with a bridge over the Blaenau Ffestiniog branch and numerous other bridges for connecting side roads. A new goods yard would be built south-east of Llandudno Junction station to replace the yard at Colwyn Bay which would be lost due to the new road. Colwyn Bay station was also rebuilt as was Llanfairfechan. Two miles of new railway would be constructed west of Colwyn Bay to Mochdre, using much of the ground previously used by the long lifted relief lines.


East of the headland upon which the Hotel 70 degrees sat (see details below), the dual carriageway for a short distance was on the ocean side of the railway line. In this June 16th 1984 view a Euston - Holyhead service led by 47599 runs alongside the well advanced roadway.

Colwyn Bay - East

Just east of Colwyn Bay a small headland forces the North Wales main line into a short tunnel. The headland became home to a hotel, the Hotel 70 Degrees built during the early 1970's. It is from the grounds of this hotel that many of the panoramic views looking westwards across Colwyn Bay were taken. For much of the route west of here the railway remains on the north side of the A55 alignment. However at the foot of the headland the road had no place to go apart from around it, which required a bridge to take the railway over the road. The first view shows the realignment of the mainline to accommodate the building of the bridge.

Approximately forty homes were demolished to make way for the new road at this location, several of the homes probably dating back to the late Victorian era.

In this 1982 view road construction is well underway, all the homes required for demolition have been dealt with, and grading for the road is very evident. Construction of the bridge (to the right of the DMU) is well underway, and the DMU is on that portion of the track which has been temporarily realigned.
In this August 17th 1983 view the bridge is now complete and the railway alignment has returned to its original course.Work continues now on removing soil and building retaining walls to allow the dual-carriageway to pass under the railway. A Class 47 heads east with an unidentified service.
From road level a lightly loaded freightliner train led by 47195 on the evening of October 7th 1983 heads east. The headland upon which the hotel sits is prominent. Homes once stood where the photographer is standing.
In this view dated September 18th 1984 another Class 47 hauled Freightliner heads east, as progress on the dual-carriageway advances.
A Bangor - Scarborough service led by 47480 'Robin Hood' crosses Tan-Y-Lan viaduct on September 26th 1984.
All the work is done! The new road is open, all the contractors materials have been removed, the grass now covers the formerly muddy areas as a six car DMU rools across the bridge. This portion of the road opened on December 7th 1984.

Colwyn Bay

The alignment of the railway onward to Colwyn Bay was unaffected by the new dual-carriageway. However west of Colwyn Bay station and onwards through Tan-y-Bryn and Mochdre the railway was realigned along with much earth removal and rebuilding of bridges and other structures.

One significant structure that required replacement was the Brompton Avenue Bridge in Colwyn Bay.

April 15th 1982 finds 47427 approaching Brompton Avenue bridge with a westbound service. This view was taken prior to any construction work commencing. The houses to the right will soon have the noise of an occasional train replaced with the continuous dull rumble of a busy dual carriageway.

Photograph collection of webmaster.
A view of the construction works from a slightly different perspective and with motive power that would have more normally been associated with the Midland mainline or the NE/SW route. But here is 45132 in charge of the 9.31 to Scarborough on May 25th 1983 heading east out of Colwyn Bay. Heading westbound is an unidentified Class 45/1 whilst to the right is signs of activity with regard to the new roadway construction.

This view is taken from the Brompton Avenue bridge looking eastwards on October 23rd 1982 with 47443 passing. The existing alignment will be moved to the left. The footbridge in the background was also the location of many photographs on this page, it too would be replaced.
Its April 16th 1983 and 47432 passes with the 08.15 Holyhead - Crewe. In the background is the original Brompton Avenue bridge. The freshly built retaining walls to the right will eventually accomodate the realigned running lines.
Construction proceeds on the works to the east of Brompton Avenue bridge. In the background the Victorian era cast-iron footbridge has been replaced by something a little more modern. Meanwhile a Class 45 heads westbound on a sunny August 6th 1983.
Construction abounds on both sides of the line, clearance takes place on the left to allow for the track realignment, remanants of the old footbridge are dumped in the foreground. The white building just visible above the last coach is the 70 Degrees hotel. August 18th 1983, 45059 with a Scarborough - Bangor
The old Brompton Avenue bridge is now gone whilst the new alignment is almost in place, November 5th 1983, a Llandudno - Scarborough passes in charge of a Class 45/1.
The old order changes, the passenger train is now on the new 'up' line, the original down line is still in use for a short while longer. Late 1983/early 1984.
A wet day in late 1983/early 1984 finds the new alignment in use for both directions, and the original route is being removed by a substantial looking vehicle.
April 12th 1984 finds 47532 in charge of a Euston - Holyhead service. It is running on the newly shifted alignment, the position of the old line still visible in the ballast.
The old alignment has been dug out, the embankment pushed back closer to the houses and road surfacing is now well underway. December 5th 1984.
Looking west towards Tan-y-bryn from the Brompton Avenue bridge reveals the substantial concrete retaining walls required. In the background can be seen part of another replacement footbridge (the white metal structure) which was the scene of many photographs during the building process.


After passing beyond Brompton Avenue bridge the railway curved round to take a south-westerly direction for several miles. This pulled the railway away from the coastline until it reached Llandudno. For the length of the line shown in this set of photographs it was neccessary with the arrival of the dual carriageway to relocate the line which required some considerable earth removal.

47485 heads east past Tan-y-bryn with a Holyhead - London service on April 23rd 1982. This view shows the original alignment of the line prior to the start of any construction work.
Its March 19th 1983 as a Llandudno - Chester DMU passes one of the considerable earth/rock removal operations required for the line relocation. The new dual-carriageway will eventually occupy the railway lines at this point!
In this view from April 13th 1983 47537 leads a westbound Holyhead service past the expanding cutting worksite. Just beyond the last coach is the remains of an overbridge which provided the location of many views in this section.
With the partially demolished bridge in the foreground a Holyhead - Crewe service led by 47524 passes by the completed embankment earthworks on October 13th 1983. On the left is the original Colwyn Bay - Llandudno road whilst on the right is the new formation for the railway.
This view looks eastwards back towards the rebuilt Brompton Avenue bridge, dated November 16th 1983 with 47363 on the the new formation with a train load of ballast.
In this view 08633 and a cable laying train are busy at work on November 30th 1983.
The new order is in place on February 3rd 1984 with 47360 on the old formation involved in track removal whilst 47598 passes by with the 09.30 Crewe - Holyhead on the new alignment. In the background a portion of the old stone bridge awaits demolition whilst its modern steel replacement is already in place behind it.
A frosty January 17th 1985 finds 47050 heading west with a train of covered wagons. The dual-carriageway is now well advanced, complete with the slip road for Brompton Avenue.
Looking the other way on the same day - January 17th 1985 - 45138 heads east with an eight coach Bangor - Scarborough service.
With the dual-carriageway now open a Class 33 passes by with a Cardiff bound service.
And looking in an easterly direction is the completed dual-carriage way and the realigned railway, complete with a westbound DMU.


47549 passes through Mochdre on September 14th 1983 with a London - Holyead working. It is on the original alignment, over to the left grading is well advanced for the new track location.
Its December 30th 1983, the bridge behind the locomotive (47532) has little time left before it is demolished, the track is almost in place for the new alignment.
1984 - an ex-works Class 47 is on a running-in turn with a service to Holyhead. To the right the original alignment is in the process of being removed.
A late afternoon view on January 26th 1985 catches 45105 with a Manchester - Bangor service. The train is now on the new alignment and the dual-carriageway is taking shape.
July 19th 1986 47526 in charge of a Scarborough - Bangor service, passing the completed & very empty dual-carriageway.

All photographs are courtesy of John Powell unless otherwise stated.

More views will be added as time permits.

Page added November 8th 2006.
Last updated June 25th 2008.

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