£200M RAIL UPGRADE TO POWER ‘POST-PANDEMIC BOOM’
A £200m rail upgrade linking North Wales and the North West through a new super-hub at Chester can power a ‘pandemic bounceback boom’, according to those behind the project.
The proposed investment would include £60m to speed up the North Wales main line to Holyhead, £60m to modernise and upgrade Chester Station and £80m to connect Wrexham to Liverpool, including £20m for a new station on Deeside.
The package of works will be presented at Regional Recovery 2021, an online conference for the North Wales Mersey Dee area, to be attended by public and private sector leaders, including government ministers from both Westminster and Cardiff.
Leading the bid will be Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, and chair of Growth Track 360, the campaign group launched by a cross-border alliance of business and political leaders.
Taking part will be Welsh Government economics minister Ken Skates and UK Government ministers Paul Scully and David Davies.
Councillor Gittins said: “Growth Track 360 is pursuing a two-track strategy, firstly by seeking investment in the region of North Wales and the Mersey-Dee cross-border area and secondly seeking to influence major strategic UK rail investments like HS2.
“We are calling for an upgrade to the North Wales Coast Main Line to enable more trains to run along the line more quickly, for a redevelopment of Chester Station to increase services to the rest of the UK.
“We also want a transformation of the Wrexham to Bidston line into a Wrexham to Liverpool service that runs services similar to the MerseyRail network and forms the basis of a cross border metro system based on rail hubs with connecting bus services and travel corridors.”
Gittings believes the investments will “enable better, economy-boosting connectivity from North Wales and Cheshire to the big UK rail investments in HS2 at Crewe to London and the Midlands, Northern Powerhouse Rail at Warrington to Manchester, Leeds and the Northern Cities and access to Manchester and its international airport, our gateway to the world”.
The ambitious plan aims for an initial £20m to get the ball rolling, with a 20-year plan aimed at securing £1bn of rail improvements.
This would transform the North Wales and Cheshire economy and provide 70,000 new jobs.
Professor John Reynolds, a director of North Wales Tidal Energy, added: “The private sector is looking to the Governments of the UK and Wales for leadership and to show they’re prepared to dip into their pockets.
“They have to show they have skin in the game, that they’re prepared to take some risk, so that other investors who are waiting in the wings can come in with their own stakes that can be much greater.
“We have investment in a hydrogen hub on Anglesey, which is a start, and already cities like Liverpool and Manchester are looking at powering their public transport systems with hydrogen and we’re perfectly placed to deliver that power.”
Read more about Liverpool City Region’s transport infrastructure HERE.