A major campaign has been launched to secure £1bn rail improvements to transform the Cheshire and North Wales regional economy and deliver 70,000 new jobs over 20 years.
The initiative – called Growth track 360 – is led by a cross-border alliance of business, political and public sector leaders.
The campaign, which is linked to the government's vision for a Northern Powerhouse, has the backing of the region’s eight local authorities including Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC).
Among the targets on the wish list are:
■ Electrification of the Crewe to North Wales line via Chester so the region can be linked to HS2
■ Doubling train services between the North Wales coast and Wrexham to Manchester through Chester
■ Investment in new, modern rolling stock
■ Creating new services on the Halton Curve between Liverpool/Liverpool Airport to North Wales and Wrexham via Chester
■ Doubling services between Wrexham and Liverpool via Deeside and Bidston.
Linked to the proposals would be station improvements and the creation of a smart ticketing system to make journey planning cheaper and easier. Also being sought is a new approach to franchises to improve services and upgrades to signalling and line speeds.
The campaign is being driven by the North Wales and Mersey Dee Rail Task Force 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 & North Wales Chamber of Commerce.
Research suggests the improvements would lead to an estimated 70,000 new jobs and the fast-tracking of economic growth so that the region’s annual output would grow to £50.5bn in 20 years.
The proposals would require sustained commitment to driving rail passenger use and reducing reliance on road transport.
CWaC leader Cllr Samantha Dixon said: “This investment is essential if we are to create opportunities for generations to come. This investment would increase productivity and economic growth, increasing tax revenues and reducing unemployment across the region.”
Cllr Phil Davies, leader of Wirral and cabinet member for economic development and energy in Liverpool City Region said: “Wirral is recognised as the number one location in the North West for clean energy engineering and linking our economy to manufacturers in Cheshire and North Wales with a fast, reliable train service is long overdue.
"Moving goods and people between the Dee and the Mersey is fundamental to the continued growth of the region.“
The campaign has already secured support for businesses across the region and has published a prospectus – Growth Track 360, Connected within an hour – which is being presented to senior government figures in London and Cardiff. Senior rail industry figures will also be lobbied to make the case for investment.