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MPs back rail improvements
Published: 13th October 2016
This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group
The North Wales and Mersey Dee All Party Parliamentary (APPG) has expressed strong support for a planned £1 billion of rail improvements in Cheshire and North Wales, after the region’s Growth Track 360 campaigners presented their prospectus to the MPs.
Entitled ‘Growth Track 360, Connected within an hour’, the prospectus was presented to MPs by the campaign’s Rail Task Force, and the All Party Parliamentary ‘s chair Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham, said he and his colleagues strongly support the proposals.
By improving rail services in the Cheshire and North Wales regions, the campaigners hope to raise the value of goods and services to an annual £50.5 billion in the coming two decades, creating 70,000 jobs and accelerating the pace of economic growth.
This would be achieved by electrifying the line from Crewe to North Wales, ready to support the electric rolling stock that will be used once HS2 is operational, as well as investing in new carriages and creating new and more frequent lines between Liverpool and Manchester to North Wales, Wrexham, and Chester.
The campaign has already secured the support of local business leaders this summer, with over 80 executives from Cheshire, North Wales and the North West of England signing up to Growth Track 360 in July within the first week of its launch.
Mr Lucas has now written to the campaign lamenting the years during which an integrated strategy has not been applied to supporting the cross-border economy in the area, blaming a lack of investment and fragmented planning for the failure to promote the region.
He said the proposals put forward by Growth Track 360 help to overcome this, by addressing fundamental weaknesses in the area’s rail network not in isolation, but as part of a larger, connected entity.
“Currently our rail network is uncompetitive with the motor car and is unable to make a significant contribution to economic growth,” he wrote to Councillor Samantha Dixon, chair of the North Wales and Mersey Dee Rail Task Force.
“Your proposals will enable better connectivity with the cities driving the Northern Powerhouse concept and their airports, Manchester and Liverpool.
“They will enable better movement within the region to access employment and visitor attractions. We are very excited by proposals to connect up to seven major enterprise zones from Anglesey to Warrington, including employment growth zones in Deeside, Wrexham, Chester, Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port.”
His letter added that it is essential that the region’s rail infrastructure should be ‘HS2-ready’ by 2027, as part of proposals to ensure the local improvements are able to deliver improved services over longer distances, including routes to London.
Councillor Dixon said the APPG’s support is ‘fantastic for our campaign’ as it demonstrates that the proposals are supported by all of the parties present in Cheshire, the Wirral and North Wales, and in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
“This is a campaign which has the potential to truly transform the lives of people across the wider region and beyond,” she added.
“If successful, Growth Track 360 will future-proof the region’s transport infrastructure and deliver a connected, collaborative and effective network that will enable our companies and industry to broaden their horizons and compete effectively on a national and global scale.”
Ashley Rogers, chair of the North Wales Business Council, also welcomed the support of the APPG for Growth Track 360, calling the planned investment ‘a much-needed and long-awaited shot in the arm’ to revitalise the economy in the local area.
He said: “It’s fantastic to see such strong impetus growing behind the campaign from both the public and private sector. We look forward to seeing this support continue to mushroom as people realise how critical this investment is for the future of our economy.”