The leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council has told an inquiry into the Wales and Borders Rail Franchise that local people deserve more frequent services and reduced journey times.
Responding to the Welsh Affairs Committee Inquiry on behalf of the North Wales and Mersey Dee (NW&MD) Rail Task Force, Cllr Samantha Dixon, who is the rail task force representative for the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, outlined the pressing need for updated services in the region.
The NW&MD Rail Task Force, which includes political and public sector leaders and representatives from business, has been created to identify and promote rail improvements across North Wales and the cross border region.
The task force has produced the Growth Track 360 Rail Prospectus which sets out a vision for £1 billion of rail investment across North Wales and the cross border region which would deliver 70,000 new jobs and increase the area’s gross value added (GVA) to £50 billion.
In evidence submitted to the inquiry, Cllr Dixon said the current franchise made no allowance for passenger growth or provision for additional trains, which constrained developing and modernising services.
She added the next Wales and Border franchise must include contractual commitments for this investment and the overall transformation of passenger experience to accelerate modal shift from road to rail.
She also highlighted the importance of maintaining the major cross border passenger flows in addition to those within Wales that the Wales and Borders franchise serves, including those with Manchester International Airport.
Cllr Dixon said: “The pressing need for updated and improved services is clear, both to meet passengers’ expectations and to strengthen the local economies served. Improving productivity is the major challenge of our time and providing efficient, effective transport links is key to this.
“The Wales and Border franchise is a crucial part of the wider Growth Track 360 vision, so it’s key that the franchise agreement is contractually bound to deliver enhanced services, which will future proof the system and enable the modernisation and wider upgrade and expansion of the rail networks to go ahead.
“We’re pleased to have the opportunity to present this solid body of evidence, which clearly outlines the importance of the Wales and Border Franchise to the success of the wider rail enhancement strategy, and look forward to the inquiry’s response.”
The Growth Track 360 campaign is being driven by the North Wales and Mersey Dee Rail Task Force (NW&MD) and has the backing of the region’s eight local authorities, the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, the Mersey Dee Alliance, the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the North Wales Business Council and the West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce.
The campaign is calling for:
The electrification of the line from Crewe to North Wales so the region can be linked to HS2 and fast London trains can continue to Bangor and Holyhead
The doubling of frequency of trains between the North Wales Coast Line and Wrexham to Manchester through Chester
The investment in new, modern, better equipped rolling stock
Creating new services between Liverpool and Liverpool Airport to North Wales and Wrexham via Chester (Halton Curve)
Doubling journey frequency between Wrexham and Liverpool via Deeside and Bidston.
People can show their support for Growth Track 360 by adding their names to the online campaign at www.growthtrack360.com.