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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

AM raises North Wales rail issues

Rail issues facing North Wales were raised by Mark Isherwood AM during the latest session of an inquiry into the Welsh Government’s plans for the next Wales and Borders Rail Franchise.

Mr Isherwood (pictured), who has long been calling for improvements to services for the region, championed North Wales Rail Issues when questioning Network Rail, UK Department for Transport, Engineering Sector Panel and Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure in the Welsh Government during the latest session of the Assembly Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee inquiry into the plans.

Mr Isherwood spoke of “a number of witnesses here and in Shrewsbury reinforcing the need for rail investment in north Wales” and referred to the North Wales & Mersey Dee Rail Task Force’s ‘Growth Track 360’ proposals with both Governments.

Questioning them over the North Wales and Merseyside connectivity - the Halton curve, he said: “We know that the Liverpool City Region have made the decision to invest up to the border, but there’s not yet been a parallel decision this side of the border. What might the potential implications of that be, or do you have any thoughts about how that might go forward?

“Similarly, with Wrexham-Saltney, or particularly Rossett, and the notorious missing two miles, what will the implication of that be if those two miles aren’t filled, and the capacity issues that will result? We understand there might be capacity for one extra train per two hours, but I don’t know if you’re able to indicate anything about that.”

Mr Isherwood also spoke of concern over the connectivity to Crewe, particularly with electrification, and where the absence of a hub connection at Crewe might impact on the proposals for North Wales, and connectivity to Manchester and Manchester and Liverpool airports.  

He said: “My understanding is that the north-east Wales border has the highest cross-border motor crossing anywhere in the UK daily, and rail usage is amongst the lowest in terms of travel to work cross-border, or travel to shopping, or whatever it may be, because of the limitations. What greater capacity could be provided if that two miles had been dualled?

“Given, obviously, that Growth Track 360 is about two sides of the border, it’s about the travelling area and the commercial area of the region, what about connectivity into Manchester? Because obviously, at the moment, you effectively miss the city and have to come back in again. And obviously ensuring the sustainability of connectivity with the two main airports.”

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