A RAIL track which could potentially link Chester to Liverpool Airport has been given a stay of execution.
The Halton Curve, a two-mile piece of track between Frodsham and the mainline in Runcorn, has already been cited in the House of Commons as 'the missing piece of the jigsaw' for the North West.
The North Cheshire Rail Users' Group (NCRUG) has been pushing for trains to run regularly to and from North Wales to Liverpool via the Halton Curve, on which just 18 trains run a year, in the Chester-Runcorn direction.
The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) considered the Halton Curve in its review of the West Coast Mainline and decided last month to issue a closure notice.
However, following interest shown by Merseytravel in developing the route, the SRA cancelled a meeting in Manchester on Tuesday with the North West Rail Passengers' Council and local authorities. Instead, SRA officials spent the day in talks with Merseytravel.
Frank Thomas, NCRUG publicity officer, said it was good news.
'They have now decided to hold on to the closure notice while other local issues get explored,' he said.
'We're pleased the NCRUG has had some effect. We mentioned it to Merseytravel - some pressure has been applied and we applied it in the right places.'
The SRA informed the Rail Passengers' Council last month it was going to issue a closure notice. The timetable drawn up would have allowed for objections by the end of September and a decision early next year.
SRA spokesman Jonty Alone said: 'A decision was taken to propose a closure in the past few weeks. The position has changed from the point of view that we have been engaging with Merseytravel and other local stakeholders.
'We can't fund the Halton Curve being retained for traffic. We will wait and see what the situation will be in the next few weeks.
'Merseytravel is going to try and put together, on its own or with other stakeholders, a business case that would allow us to withdraw the closure proposal.'
Mr Thomas said: 'Merseytravel certainly thinks it's a viable concern, which is what we said all along.'
In the House of Commons last Thursday, Mike Hall, MP for Weaver Vale, raised the issue of the Halton Curve in an adjournment debate for the second time and said a closure would be 'nonsensical'.
He told MPs: 'If the line were resignalled and some investment were made in it, trains could travel in both directions and it would be the final piece in the North West's railway jigsaw. It would link North Wales to Liverpool without people having to use the West Coast Main Line and would allow North Wales traffic to go through Liverpool and on to the North West and the Lake District. It would connect with the Allerton interchange on the Merseyside light railway, thus completing the circular network, and it would link that network to Liverpool John Lennon airport.'