£30m ‘levelling up’ bid put in to UK Government to improve Wales-England rail link
A Welsh local authority has put in a £30m bid for ‘levelling up’ money to improve a Wales-England rail link which has been “starved of investment”.
Business and local authority leaders on both sides of the Wales-England border have endorsed plans to improve the Borderlands line between Wrexham and Bidston on the Wirral Peninsula, which also stops at several points in Flintshire.
The bid is being led by Flintshire Council whose political leader Ian Roberts said investment in the route was well overdue and would help to progress long term proposals to run four trains per hour into Liverpool city centre.
It follows Transport for Wales officials describing the existing service as having “reliability issues” earlier this year, with the condition of stations labelled as “poor”.
The application to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund includes three main investment schemes as part of a move to deliver faster and more frequent trains along the line.
It includes a new station based on Deeside Industrial Park with a large 250-space car park and bus interchange facilities and a further park and ride service at Penyffordd Station.
New freight sidings would also be created at the Hanson Cement Works in Padeswood to prevent the current disruption caused to passenger services by freight trains.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Flintshire Council leader Ian Roberts said: “The Wrexham to Bidston line has been described variously in the past as a Cinderella service.
“It has been starved of investment for many, many years and this is something that we need to start putting back in.
“If we can get these facilities and if we can get them working well, hopefully the line will then begin to develop and will produce benefits for the community.
“The eventual aim is to support services which run around the loop line in Liverpool.
“The immediate aim is to get services running into Birkenhead North Station, where there is a considerably more frequent service on the Liverpool Loop Line.”
‘Have a say’
The capital fund which the council is hoping to draw money from was created by the UK Government to improve local infrastructure and support economic recovery.
In most cases, requests for up to £20m are being invited, but scope has been included to provide more money for larger transport projects.
The bid has received the backing of Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami, Vale of Clwyd MP James Davies and the Growth Track 360 partnership, which includes business and council leaders.
The UK Government’s decision to bypass the Welsh Government and directly allocate the funding itself has recently been described as a “deliberate assault on Welsh devolution” by Wales’ Economy Minister Vaughan Gething.
However, Cllr Roberts said his priority was on delivering improvements for rail passengers. He said: “Politicians of a higher grade than me can argue about the Levelling Up Fund.
“My own view is that we have devolution in Wales and therefore the Welsh Government should have a say in allocating the fund.
“But we hope this intervention and the new investment on the Wrexham to Bidston line will allow Cinderella to go to the ball in a carriage that’s modern with stations that are improved.”
The overall bid is worth just over £30m and was submitted today ahead of the deadline set by the Westminster government.