BUSINESS and council leaders in the region are joining forces to urge the UK government to conduct an urgent review of the electrification of the north Wales coast main railway line. The call for action comes after a briefing meeting organized by Growth Track 360 and Transport for the North, which was attended by Members of Parliament from North Wales, West Cheshire, and the Wirral at the House of Commons.
During the meeting, strong support was expressed for the priorities outlined by Growth Track 360. These priorities 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 improve train services.
As a result, parliament members are now urging Growth Track 360 to press for the electrification of the North Wales Coast Main Line and to acquire estimated capital costs for these projects. There is also a demand to challenge the Department of Transport’s investment appraisal process, which has been perceived as neglecting Wales and the North of England.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Chair of Growth Track 360 and Leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council, expressed her satisfaction with the cross-party consensus in favor of rail investment. However, she criticized the Department for Transport’s appraisal system, which she claims favors London and the South East while hindering the timely allocation of capital funds. Councillor Gittins emphasized the environmental benefits of electrification, stating, “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 decarbonize transport.”
In line with these efforts, Growth Track 360 has written to the Transport Minister, Huw Merriman MP, requesting funds for Transport for Wales and Network Rail to undertake an urgent feasibility study on electrifying the North Wales Coast Main Line between Crewe and Holyhead. Councillor Gittins raised concerns over the current investment appraisal system, stating, “Despite the strong cross-party consensus in favor of rail investment in our geography, we cannot access capital funds in a reasonable timeframe because the Department for Transport’s investment appraisal system favors London and the South East. It is time to challenge those processes which are working against Union Connectivity and Levelling Up.”
Councillor Ian Roberts, Vice Chair of Growth Track 360 and Leader of Flintshire Council, echoed these sentiments, acknowledging the barriers to accessing funding, including a lack of capital and an appraisal process that favors the South East. He emphasized the need for capital funds to be allocated promptly, stating, “I am disappointed that capital funds have not yet been allocated to deliver Growth Track 360 priorities.”
Ashley Rogers, GT360 Business Representative and Chief Executive of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, expressed hope that the government would respond positively to the Union Connectivity Review and allocate the necessary capital funds. Rogers stressed the importance of urgent action on climate change and highlighted that improved public transport would offer a low-carbon travel option.
The collective efforts of businesses, council leaders, and parliamentary members aim to address the challenges faced by the region in accessing funding and prioritize the electrification of the North Wales Coast Main Line. By advocating for a fairer distribution of capital and pushing for the review of the investment appraisal process, they seek to advance the goals of Union Connectivity and Levelling Up while contributing to the decarbonization of transportation.