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Growth Track 360 welcomes scrutiny of Union Connectivity Review

Published: 11/01/2022

Growth Track 360 welcomes scrutiny of Union Connectivity Review by House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee and calls for swift commitment by UK Government to implementing Sir Peter Hendy’s recommendations.

Business and local authority leaders from North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester in the Growth Track 360 partnership today welcomed Wednesday’s scrutiny by the UK Parliament’s Welsh Affairs Committee of the Union Connectivity Review (UCR) undertaken by Sir Peter Hendy CBE and published last month.

Sir Peter’s report noted that Transport for Wales and Growth Track 360 have been developing plans for:

  • A multi modal North Wales Metro enabled by improvements to the North Wales Main Line, including line speed and capacity improvements;
  • Upgrades between Wrexham, Bidston and Liverpool as part of the North Wales Metro concept;
  • Enhancements to Chester station as a regional rail network hub; and 
  • A Crewe HS2 hub station interface to maximise the benefits of HS2.

The UCR acknowledged the role of faster journey times and capacity to support enhanced cross-border economic links which will facilitate sustainable, increased growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Sir Peter Hendy told the Welsh Affairs Committee that cross-border connectivity had been missing from transport investment hitherto, and that “this needs to be taken forward for North Wales and Merseyside including main line electrification and links to HS2” which is now certain to reach Crewe.  He went on to call for disregarding the Welsh-English border for the purposes of transport investment, adding “I can see nothing but benefit from the right package of investment” in the North Wales Main Line.

Interviewed by the Committee, UK Rail Minister Chris Heaton Harris MP and Welsh Office Minister David T.C. Davies MP said the UCR is “now a good plan to work to”.  They confirmed that Transport for Wales has already submitted a bid to the UCR development fund for improvements to Chester Station, the North Wales Coaast Main Line and Shotton station, where the Wrexham to Bidston and North Wales Coast Main Line intersect. The UK Ministers confirmed that a formal response to the UCR would be published “soon”.

Growth Track 360 Chair and Leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council, Councillor Louise Gittins, said:

“Sir Peter Hendy’s thoroughly researched report recognised the existence of our cross-border economy and the role of enhanced, sustainable transport in unlocking its full potential for the people who live and work here.  It’s essential that the UK Government accepts his recommendations in full, funds the development work that is needed and then collaborates urgently with Transport for Wales and Network Rail to bring our priority projects to reality with capital funding.”

Growth Track 360 Vice Chair and Leader of Flintshire Council, Councillor Ian Roberts, said:

“We now have the evidence that Union Connectivity between Wales and England really is a priority. Our cross-border economy is being held back by decades of under investment in our railways. Investment in rail infrastructure is “non-devolved”, meaning that only the UK Government’s Department for Transport can fund the investments recommended by the UCR. We urge MPs of all parties from Welsh and English constituencies in our region to press the UK Government to quickly to release the development funds and then the capital investment that Transport for Wales and Network Rail need in order to realise our sustainable transport vision.”