Business leaders from across the North West, North Wales and Cheshire are backing a campaign to secure £1 billion of rail improvements which would transform the regional economy and support the delivery of 70,000 new jobs over 20 years.
Leaders putting their names behind the campaign – called Growth Track 360 – include the Chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance, Adrian Barsby; Chair of the Chester Growth Partnership, Guy Butler; Chief Executive of Marketing Cheshire, Katrina Michel; and Jim Jones, Managing Director of North Wales Tourism.
Today those behind Growth Track 360 urged all business owners and operators to show their support, by signing up to the campaign online at www.growthtrack360.com.
The campaign was launched last week and is being led by a cross-border alliance of business, political and public sector leaders. If successful, it would lead to a massive boost to the North Wales, Cheshire and Wirral economies, linking them with the planned HS2 line between London and the North of England.
Over 79 high-profile business leaders from a variety of sectors across the regions have put their names to the campaign.
Jim Jones, managing director of North Wales Tourism, said: “Fundamental to any tourism offer is the quality of our transport system into and throughout the North Wales region. Given the growing numbers of visitors arriving by train, we do not have the capacity to cope with the demand. For many years in North Wales, we have suffered a mediocre service, so any investment in the regional rail infrastructure is to be very warmly welcomed. We fully endorse and support this proposal and hope at long last the quality of our transport infrastructure will match the rest of our tourism offer in North Wales.”
Chair of the Chester Growth Partnership, Guy Butler, said: “Chester Growth Partnership, representing the business sector, is fully supportive of the case for improved rail connectivity to Chester. Effective and efficient infrastructure is imperative to the future growth and prosperity of Chester. Our ambitious plans for investment and growth can only be fully realised with better links to labour markets and integration with other commercial centres.”
The campaign is being driven by the North Wales and Mersey Dee Rail Task Force (NW&MD) and has the backing of the region’s eight local authorities, the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, the Mersey Dee Alliance, the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the North Wales Business Council and the West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce.
Initial research suggests that the Growth Track 360 package of investments would support the delivery of an estimated 70,000 new jobs across the North Wales and Mersey Dee region and the fast-tracking of economic growth so that GVA (the value of goods and services produced each year in the region) grows to £50.5bn in 20 years.
The campaign is calling for:
- The electrification of the line from Crewe to North Wales so the region can be linked to HS2 and fast London trains can continue to Bangor and Holyhead.
- The investment in new, modern, better equipped rolling stock.
- Creating new services between Liverpool and Liverpool Airport to North Wales and Wrexham via Chester (Halton Curve).
- The doubling of frequency of trains between the North Wales Coast Line and Wrexham to Manchester through Chester.
- Doubling journey frequency between Wrexham and Liverpool via Deeside and Bidston.
The proposals are regarded as an integrated and linked package of long term investment that will require sustained commitment to drive passenger use, reducing reliance on road transport.
Linked to the proposals would be improvements to stations to upgrade facilities and capacity and the creation of a smart ticketing system to make journey planning cheaper and easier.
Also being sought is a new approach to franchises to improve services and upgrades to signalling and line speeds to enhance journey times.
The campaign has already published a prospectus – Growth Track 360, Connected within an hour – which is being presented to senior government figures in London and Cardiff.
The campaign will also be lobbying senior rail industry figures to make the case for the investment.