Representatives from the North Wales and Mersey Dee (NW&MD) Rail Taskforce attended the House of Commons making the case for better rail services across North Wales and Cheshire.
The group was giving evidence to MPs from the Welsh Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the Wales and Borders Rail Franchise, and urged parliamentarians to support better train services that will help local people get to where they want to be whether for work, leisure or study.
Chair of the NW&MD Rail Task Force, Councillor Samantha Dixon, joined Ashley Rogers, Chair, North Wales Business Council, and Iwan Prys Jones, Programme Manager, North Wales Economic Ambition Board to present at the Parliamentary inquiry, which will contribute recommendations for improvements to services ahead of the bid for the franchise.
Abellio, Arriva, KeolisAmey and MTR have been named as preferred bidders for the new not-for-profit Wales and Borders rail franchise, which will be awarded in early October 2018.
Transport and Economy Secretary Ken Skates, who also presented to the inquiry, has described the decision as a ‘once in a generation chance’ to improve passenger travel. He also said the zero-growth forecast on passenger numbers in the current contract with Arriva Trains had been a “huge failure”.
The NW&MD Rail Task Force, which includes political and public sector leaders and representatives from business, has been created to identify and promote rail improvements across North Wales and the cross border region.
The task force has produced the Growth Track 360 Rail Prospectus which sets out a vision for £1 billion of rail investment across North Wales and the cross border region which would deliver 70,000 new jobs and increase the area’s gross value added (GVA) to £50 billion.
Councillor Dixon said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to present the case for better, faster, more frequent rail services in Westminster. The next Wales and Borders franchise presents an unmissable chance to ensure that the right provision is in place to deliver the updated, improved rail services people living across North Wales and Cheshire desperately need.
“We want to see a sea change in people using rail as a key mode of transport and in order for that to happen, significant investment needs to be made. The current rolling stock is old and inadequate and we need to ensure that the next Wales and Borders Franchise agreement contains real commitment to investment.
“One of the Growth Track 360 campaign’s key aims is to achieve an integrated rail network for the single region, which serves nearly a million people – this will need careful, innovative management, so we also need to see provision for this within the next franchise.”
Ashley Rogers said: “Good rail links are critical for the health of the economy at all levels – from the biggest corporates to the smallest micro businesses. Efficient, affordable, regular services, which reach areas of need are key. We need to transform the passenger experience by enabling the delivery of faster, more frequent train services that meet passenger requirements.”
Iwan Prys Jones said: “The Wales and Border franchise provides an unmissable opportunity to update the rail offering, so it’s key that the franchise agreement is contractually bound to deliver enhanced services, which will future proof the system and enable the modernisation and wider upgrade and expansion of the rail networks to go ahead.”
In evidence previously submitted to the inquiry, the delegation said the current franchise made no allowance for passenger growth or provision for additional trains, which constrained developing and modernising services.
The delegation also highlighted the importance of maintaining the major cross border passenger flows in addition to those within Wales that the Wales and Borders franchise serves, including those with Manchester International Airport.
The Growth Track 360 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.
People can show their support for Growth Track 360, by adding their names to the online campaign at www.growthtrack360.com.