The Shrewsbury & Hereford Railway Company was sanctioned by Parliament in 1846. However, work did not start until 1850 and eventually, the railway was opened to a terminus at Hereford Barrs Court in 1853. Initially, it was operated by the West Midlands Railway Company which also owned the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway and the Worcester and Hereford Railway. The West Midlands Railway Company thus connected the Midlands with South Wales via an arrangement with the Newport Abergavenny & Hereford Railway. This attracted the attention of larger railway companies and the West Midlands Company was taken over by the mighty Great Western Railway in 1862. This in turn seriously annoyed the London & North Western Railway company who also had eyes on getting the West Midlands Company and a route into South Wales.
By 1862 there was a great deal of acrimonious boardroom wrangling over running powers over the Shrewsbury & Hereford railway. This was eventually settled in 1863 when the Great Western and London & North Western became joint owners. The line was administered and operated by a joint committee which accounts for the individual character of the line, particularly in its civil engineering and signalling.
The Marches Line thus became disputed territory from its very beginnings. Today it is equally disputed between the governments at Westminster and Cardiff as to its status in the next Wales & Borders franchise. But then the Marches have been disputed between English and Welsh since before the railways were ever thought of or invented.
A concise book on the ‘Disputed Territory: Railways in Hereford’ is available from GHAL Productions of Ledbury: contact firstname.lastname@example.org telephone 01531 633594