Call for urgent reviews into electrification of north Wales coast main railway line
Businesses and council leaders across the region are calling on the UK Government to carry out an urgent review on the electrification of the north Wales coast main railway line.
It comes after Growth Track 360 and Transport for the North held a briefing meeting for Members of Parliament from North Wales, West Cheshire and the Wirral in the House of Commons.
The meeting gave strong support for the priorities of Growth Track 360.
These include increasing the capacity and speed of the North Wales Coast Mainline, transforming the Wrexham to Bidston (Borderlands) Line into a Liverpool Service, and implementing upgrades to Chester Station to enhance the flow of train services.
Parliament members are now urging Growth Track 360 to press for the electrification of the North Wales Coast Main Line and acquire estimated capital costs for these priorities.
There is also a call to challenge the Department of Transport’s investment appraisal process, which has been perceived as failing Wales and the North of England.
Growth Track 360 Chair and Leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council, Councillor Louise Gittins, expressed her delight at the cross-party consensus in favour of rail investment.
However, she criticised the Department for Transport’s appraisal system, which favours London and the South East, obstructs the timely allocation of capital funds.
Emphasising the group’s commitment to electrification, Cllr Gittins highlighted the environmental benefits. \
She said: “Electrification will enable faster and more efficient trains while reducing carbon emissions. It is time to move on from old fashioned diesel fleets and deliver a modern, electrified UK Rail Network as part of a green investment package to decarbonise transport.
“GT360 has written to the Transport Minister, Huw Merriman MP, seeking funds for Transport for Wales and Network Rail to undertake an urgent feasibility study into electrifying the North Wales Coast Main Line between Crewe and Holyhead.
“Despite the strong cross-party consensus in favour of rail investment in our geography, we cannot access capital funds in a reasonable timeframe because the Department for Transport’s investment appraisal system favours London and the South East.
“It is time to challenge those processes which are working against Union Connectivity and Levelling Up.”
Cllr Gittins and Growth Track 360 Vice Chair, Flintshire Council Leader Cllr Ian Roberts, have written to Transport Minister, Huw Merriman MP, seeking funds for Transport for Wales and Network Rail to conduct a feasibility study on electrifying the North Wales Coast Main Line.
Echoing Cllr Gittins’ sentiment, Cllr Roberts acknowledged the current barriers to accessing funding, including a lack of capital and an appraisal process favouring the South East.
He said: “I welcome the support of Members of Parliament for electrification of the North Wales Coast Main Line.
I am disappointed that capital funds have not yet been allocated to deliver Growth Track 360 priorities. There are two barriers to accessing funding:
An overall shortage of funds, with too many projects chasing too few funds
A flawed investment appraisal process that directs most of what is available to London and the South East
To make more money available for investment in the Wales and Borders geography, I support the Welsh Government’s call for Barnett Consequentials for Wales from the HS2 project. This is the most efficient and direct way to obtain funding for electrifying the North Wales Coast Mainline and delivering the North Wales and Chester priorities.
“The investment appraisal process must also be reviewed with the English Regions and Devolved Administrations invited to give evidence on how the process can be made fairer. Fairer distribution of capital to Wales and the North of England aligns with the Government’s policy priorities of Levelling Up and Union Connectivity.”
Ashley Rogers, GT360 Business Representative and Chief Executive of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, expressed hope that the Government will respond positively to the Union Connectivity Review and allocate necessary capital funds.
Rogers emphasised the importance of urgent action on climate change and that better public transport would provide a low-carbon travel option.
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