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MPs back campaign for £1bn rail improvements in North Wales and Cheshire

A local MPs’ group has backed a campaign for ambitious investment in rail networks in North Wales and Cheshire.

Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham and chair of the North Wales and Mersey Dee All Party Parliamentary Group, wrote to Cllr Samantha Dixon, chair of the North Wales and Mersey Dee Rail (NW&MD) Task Force, backing the Growth Track 360 campaign.

Growth Track 360 is calling for £1bn worth of improvements, including the electrification of the line from Crewe to North Wales so the region can be linked to HS2, and creating new services between Liverpool and Liverpool Airport to North Wales and Wrexham via Chester.

In his letter, Lucas said: “Currently our rail network is uncompetitive with the motor car and is unable to make a significant contribution to economic growth. Your proposals will enable better connectivity with the cities driving the Northern Powerhouse concept and their airports, Manchester and Liverpool.

“They will enable better movement within the region to access employment and visitor attractions. We are very excited by proposals to connect up to seven major enterprise zones from Anglesey to Warrington, including employment growth zones in Deeside, Wrexham, Chester, Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port.”

Growth Track 360, which is being led by a cross-border alliance of business, political and public sector leaders, also wants to double the trains between the North Wales Coast Line and Wrexham to Manchester and Liverpool and invest in new rolling stock.

It says the improvements will boost the GVA of the region to £50.5bn and establish 70,000 jobs in the next 20 years.

Cllr Dixon said: “Such great support from the All Party Parliamentary Group is fantastic for our campaign, representing as it does MPs from all the different political parties with constituencies across the whole area of North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire. This shows that members of the Houses of Commons and Lords all recognise the significance of this campaign.

“This is a campaign which has the potential to truly transform the lives of people across the wider region and beyond. If successful, Growth Track 360 will future-proof the region’s transport infrastructure and deliver, a connected, collaborative and effective network that will enable our companies and industry to broaden their horizons and compete effectively on a national and global scale.”

Ashley Rogers, chair of the North Wales Business Council, said the investment has the potential to revitalise the regional economy and give it a much-needed and long-awaited shot in the arm. He added that members of the public and local business leaders could pledge to support Growth Track 360 on the campaign’s website.

The Rail Task Force also secured the support of Ken Skates, the Welsh cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure, following a meeting.

Skates said: “I am committed to supporting and working closely with the Rail Task Force to make this vision happen and to develop and deliver improvements. I also continue to press the UK government to direct a fair share of its rail investment to Wales, including funding to electrify the North Wales mainline.”

(Image c. oxyman from Creative Commons)

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John Burns   27/09/2016 at 12:09

North Wales is hard done by. HS3 can run right through Liverpool, onto the Wirral and onto North Wales when a Dee Crossing comes about. One was planed in the 1970s but dropped - a spur on the M53 junction 2 was built for it. Then HS3 can run to Holyhead, to the Dublin ferry terminal, ready for an Irish Sea tunnel in the far off future. This then connects the North of England with a European capital city of a metro population of over 2 million. North Wales and Chester need the Halton Curve in Runcorn up and running ASAP. They are wanting fast services to Liverpool South Parkway (for the airport) and Liverpool's city centre. They are have been punting for the Wrexham to Bidston Birkenhead line (Borderlands Line) to be a part of Merseyrail and run into the electrified underground sections in Birkenhead and Liverpool. This could also run onto Liverpool South Parkway south of the city centre on the Merseyrail Northern Line by recommissioning the 300 yards of the 1890s tunnel from Liverpool James St to Central. The 27 miles long Borderlands Line is diesel with electrification an expensive item for an hourly service - although once modernised the frequencies will increase as usage increases. Battery trains are being assessed for this line, which appears ideal for this technology. Trains can use a 3rd rail pickup on the electrified underground sections from Bidston into Liverpool and simultaneously recharging the onboard batteries/supercapacitors. The odd station on the unelectrified section could have a 3rd rail to give an acceleration boost preserving the battery charge and also charge batteries/supercapacitors while at the station. The Japanese have battery trains in service right now.

John Burns   27/09/2016 at 12:26

It goes without saying that the line from Crewe to Chester needs electrifying. The current Virgin trains from London to Chester are diesel but 90% of the trip it runs under electric wires. That is crazy. The line is very straight, but bridge clearances are low which makes electrification difficult and maybe more costly. A new high-speed line could be built paralleling the existing track - quadding or whatever. The existing track be handed over to local use and freight. Then HS2 runs direct to Chester if it ever gets further north of Crewe that is. 20 Miles More, the Liverpool HS2 lobby group have suggested a HS2 Liverpool Hamilton Sqaure station in 'Birkenhead' - about 1.5km to Liverpool's city centre. Merseyrail metro will connect to the rest of the city region and minutes into all the main quarters of Liverpool's city centre. 20MM propose a high-speed line from Crewe to Hamilton Square via Chester. The line is very straight from Crewe. The added benefit is that North Wales can be on HS2 using Classic compatible trains. Virgin do currently serve Wrexham.

Peter Jarvis   27/09/2016 at 16:13

Some of the clearances on the Robert Stephenson Chester & Holyhead line are a bit tight - overhead third rail in some of the tunnels might save space - as used on the mainland of Europe. It seems strange that we have not used electro-diesels - electric under the wires and diesels away from them.

Tothehills   27/09/2016 at 17:15

I agree with Peter Jarvis in using bi-mode trains, Electrifying this area seems a huge expense, especially where there are better returns elsewhere (get on and electrify the South Wales area for instance or link Carlisle to Newcastle to create a decent diversionary route). All for track enhancements to provide better connectivity.

John Burns   27/09/2016 at 17:41

@Tothehills The idea is to connect North Wales with the surrounding regions to improve its economy. It is not a matter of comparing the costs of one scheme to another. NW, and by default Chester, are greatly needing to have their rail updated, well connected and fast.

John Wynne   27/09/2016 at 22:11

Here's a thought: How about reconnecting Oswestry to the Shrewsbury to Wrexham line? Use the existing heritage station and line that already links it to the line north of Oswestry towards Wrexham and connect it to the south east towards Shrewsbury by building a new stretch of line. Let's link as many towns to North Wales as possible.

Lutz   27/09/2016 at 22:19

Instead of demanding the funding, they need to present the numbers to justify the expenditure; it is not for no reason that there has been minimal investment so far. At some point, these groups are going to have to contend with cut-backs in capital expenditure on infrastructure projects when the markets correct themselves.

Noam Bleicher   28/09/2016 at 10:42

Before the North Wales Coast line is electrified it needs re-engineering to provide 100 mph line speed at least, and re-signalling to allow 4 tph - two to Holyhead and two to Llandudno, with one of each running to Crewe to provide proper connections with the Midlands and South. Currently journeys from the Thames Valley require three changes for much of the day, or an incredibly lengthy detour via Shrewsbury.

John Burns   29/09/2016 at 10:09

Lutz, N Wales & Chester do not need to justify the expenditure at all. It NEEDS to be done and that is the end of it, as was the Overground. The region needs top class, fast and comfortable rail inside the region and connecting adjacent regions. That is doe not have. It is not a vanity project like HS2. The region is around 1 million peopleand poor. The region abuts the highly populated North West, yet movement between the two is minimal. Hence why they want fast rail to Liverpool and its airport. If the Dee crossing was built in the 1970s, the North Wales coast would have been in the confines of the Liverpool City Region.

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