A Merseyrail electric train.
stage in multi-million cross border rail link
10 April 2008
Merseytravel is continuing to drive forward plans for the multi-million electrification of a key cross border rail line into North Wales. The Borderlands scheme, valued at more than £60million, involves the electrification of some or all of the rail route between Wrexham to Bidston. A key "GRIP 3" (Guide to Rail Investment Projects) study, jointly by Merseytravel and the Welsh Assembly, is looking into the project and will be completed within weeks. All aspects of the project, including costs, benefits and funding, will be scrutinised in more detail. A further study looking into the design of the scheme will follow later this year. The project, a key part of Merseytravel`s ambitious rail improvement programme, would mean hundreds of thousands more passenger journeys on the cross-border rail line every year, greatly improved connections between Wrexham and Liverpool City Centre and access to the 8,000 plus at Deeside Industrial Park. It could also serve the areas of high unemployment, including Beechwood, Woodchurch and inner Birkenhead. The move is currently being scrutinised in conjunction with the TAITH consortium (a joint board of the six local authorities in North Wales), The Welsh Assembly and the Mersey Dee Alliance. Neil Scales, Chief Executive and Director General of Merseytravel, said: "This is a key route, which has fantastic potential. Our plans mean we could see new stations at Deeside and Woodchurch. "The Borderlands scheme would open up direct commuter links between Liverpool and areas of North Wales including Wrexham, Deeside and Flintshire, providing a huge boost to the regional economy." The line currently suffers from a number of problems, including under investment, track speed restrictions, extremely tight turnaround times and a need to change at Bidston for cross border journeys. Members of Merseytravel`s Passenger Transport Authority and Executive recently met Welsh Assembly Transport and Environment Ministers to discuss the plans and to garner more support for the scheme.
TRAVEL bosses have pledged to fully fund a further £600,000 investigation into the electrification of the Wrexham to Bidston rail line, an AM revealed yesterday.
The second stage study would consider the infrastructure needed to upgrade the route to a fast borderlands rail link halving journey times between the North Wales town, Wirral and Liverpool. An initial feasibility study by Network Rail, which was jointly funded with the Welsh Assembly Government, is expected to report in the next few days. Yesterday Merseytravel chief executive Neil Scales met Welsh Assembly transport minister Ieuan Wyn Jones for talks over the progress on the project. Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, who was at the meeting, said it was the first opportunity for the minister to meet Mr Scales and hear directly how committed Merseytravel are to this scheme going ahead. She said last night: “Merseytravel chief executive Neil Scales is a key partner in this scheme and I was anxious that he and the minister had the opportunity to discuss ways of ensuring that the electrification of the line takes place as soon as possible. “Mr Scales assured the minister that Merseytravel are 100% committed to this project and that the business case for the scheme is viable and worthy of Welsh Assembly Government support. “Indeed, Merseytravel committed themselves to fund the next-stage report into the infrastructure requirements for the line. “The much anticipated feasibility study by Network Rail is due to be handed over to the Welsh Assembly Government and Merseytravel in the next few days - and I along with everyone interested in this scheme looks forward to its publication. “This line has great potential for the region as a whole. It has the total support of AMs in North East Wales and also MPs from both sides of the border. “I believe the case for the electrification of the Borderlands line going ahead is overwhelming. That’s why I am determined to do all I can to make sure it becomes a reality. “The benefits would aid economic development and could provide a rail link from North East Wales to Liverpool John Lennon Airport.” If the project goes ahead, it would be funded jointly by the Welsh Assembly Government, the Department for Transport and Regional and Local Transport Authorities, including Merseytravel.
Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) chiefs were under fire yesterday after plans to boost a border rail service were shelved. Electrification of the Bidston to Wrexham rail link was put on the back-burner by Welsh Labour as a concession to their coalition colleagues, Plaid Cymru, it was suggested yesterday. Tory MP David Jones told Parliament the WAG was committed to the proposal before the last election but now 'appeared to have shelved it for up to 12 years.'
During Welsh Questions he quizzed Wales Office minister Huw Irranca-Davies over the apparent change of policy. Clwyd West MP Mr Jones said: “Does the minister know the reason for this change of plan? 'Was it perhaps a concession extracted from the First Minister by his Plaid Cymru coalition partners to enable them to pursue policies that are likely to find more favour in the areas where those are strongest?'
Electrifying the line would provide a faster and more efficient service between Wrexham and Liverpool. Passenger transport authority Merseytravel has carried out a feasibility study with the WAG.But the plans have now dropped down the Assembly’s list of priorities. Mr Irranca-Davies told MPs: “Ultimately the decision will be a decision for the Welsh Assembly government. However, I do hear what he is saying and I’m keen as well to see this happen but it is worth remembering of course that whilst he challenges currently on our plans for the rail network, in the last 10 years we have had to deal with the botched failures of a Tory administration on rail privatisation.'
MP Ian Lucas, who raised the issue yesterday, called on Mr
Irranca-Davies to meet First Minister Rhodri Morgan to
make sure the link was electrified. He added: “In Wrexham
we are celebrating the introduction of the first direct
rail services to London since 1957 but we are ever
ambitious and we now want the electrification of the
Wrexham to Liverpool line. There’s been concern that the
rail assessment plan issued over the summer somehow made
the mistake, I’m sure it was a mistake, of backdating the
work on this to 2014.”
A major boost to the
campaign to electrify the Wrexham-Liverpool rail service
has been announced.
Following a meeting between Wrexham MP Ian Lucas and Welsh Assembly Government Transport Minister Andrew Davies, Network Rail will prepare a feasibility study on the cost of the project. It will be funded jointly by the Welsh Assembly Government and Merseytravel and be a detaied examination into the costs of carrying out the electrification. Mr Lucas said: "This is absolutely great news. It means a detailed, costed assessment of the work needed to upgrade the line will now be carried out by the government and the company hoping to take the project forward, and is another positive step in the campaign for a direct service from Wrexham to Liverpool operating every half-hour. I am very pleased at the commitment to the scheme shown by both the Welsh Assembly Government and Merseytravel and plan to maximise local pressure to make sure the project happens".
The Borderlines Rail Study urged the Welsh Assembly and Department of Transport to radically upgrade the Wrexham to Bidston route, including its extension to Liverpool. The report claimed such a move would persuade up to 800,000 commuters to leave their cars at home and boost the economies of Wrexham, Deeside and Flintshire.
study, carried out by Faber Maunsell and Elan Public
Transport Consultants, concluded a £59m scheme to
electrify the entire route, and increase the number of
trains to two an hour, would be "economically viable".
It would result in the number of journeys on the line jumping from 200,000 a year to more than a million by 2020.
Cash raised would increase from £420,000 a year to £2.2m. The findings were welcomed by Wrexham MP Ian Lucas. He said: "This is a hugely important report for both Wrexham and North East Wales. There need to be better commuter links to the north of Wrexham and this can be supplied by a half-hourly service."
study was carried out on behalf of local authorities in
North Wales, Merseytravel, the Welsh Development Agency
and Cheshire County Council. It examined five
options for electrifying different sections of track
between Wrexham, Shotton, Deeside, Woodchurch and
Liverpool. It concluded that the "best value for
money" option was to electrify the route between
Liverpool, which is currently part of the Merseytravel
network, and Woodchurch but keep a slower diesel service
between Woodchurch and Wrexham. Two new stations at
Woodchurch and Deeside would be built. But the
report said electrifying the entire line was still viable
and would boost the economy of North East Wales. It
concluded: "Any enhancement of the Borderlines Line must
consider the doubling of the current hourly service
frequency as a minimum requirement. Given this
requirement, electrification of all, or part, of the route
produces an economically viable scheme. In purely
transport terms the strongest case is for electrification
to Woodchurch, although the wider economic and development
benefits would be greater if electrification extended into
Wales." It is estimated by 2020 there will be 35,000
new jobs and 2,800 new homes in the area served by the
Wrexham to Bidston railway.
Merseyrail electric service at Bidston
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