WREXHAM'S rail link to Liverpool through Bidston is under threat of closure unless it can be proved it is still viable.
The line is one of three facing the axe in Wales following a demand by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) for income to double and the passenger subsidy to be halved.
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said that it would be up to passengers, community groups and local authorities to make the case to keep the lines open as he announced plans to set up community rail part-nerships to improve marketing and cut costs.
He was adamant that closures could result and said: 'We can't be in the business of carting fresh air around the country. I'm not interested in the sentiment of running the railways. We've got to be hard-headed about this.'
The SRA claims that fares are too low on some rural lines and it will be lifting the cap on fares so that operators can offer special deals, some of them linked to bus services.
It will also allow lower standards for maintenance and disabled access to apply, and it will be demanding more is done to reduce the number of people who avoid paying their fares.
David Quarmby, chairman of the SRA, said: 'Too many empty seats are running up and down Britain's branch lines safely and reliably, but expensively. Even if they were filled, the lines would still require possibility affordable levels of subsidy, so this strategy charts a way both to grow income and to reduce costs.'
Peter Lamkin, secretary of the Wrexham-Birkenhead Rail Users Association, said: 'This has really come out of the blue for us. We have regular contact and liaison with the rail operators and the local authorities and this is the first we've heard of it. Nothing was mentioned at the meeting in October just a few weeks ago.
'The Wrexham end of the line is much busier than the Wirral end and between Shotton and Wrexham it is fairly busy for most of the day, not just at peak times.
At the moment there is not much else we can say.' Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham, is hoping that Merseyrail will take over the Wrexham to Bidston line from Network Rail and Arriva Trains Wales and has been holding talks with Merseyrail chief executive Neil Scales.
Mr Lucas has travelled on the line, which links up with the electrified service into Liverpool, and is now looking at the possibility of extending the electrification to Wrexham.
He said: 'I want an electrified line to run from Wrexham right into the centre of Liverpool. If this can be achieved, the journey time could be reduced to under an hour and there would be no change or wait on a cold platform at Bidston.
'I was very pleased to hear Mr Scales' reaction when I first discussed the matter with him in the summer, and I have since heard from him he wishes to take the matter further.'
Mr Lucas has also discussed the issue with Welsh Assembly Transport Minister, Andrew Davies, and is looking forward to further meetings with him.