This article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News on 28 February 2018.
All Weekly News readers will agree that ours is one of the best areas of the country in which to live. We have some of the finest scenery to be found anywhere. The quality of life is good, and the people are outstanding.
There are a few drawbacks, however, one of the principal ones being rail transport. True, things have improved over recent years. When I was first elected to Parliament in 2005, the Sunday journey to Euston took around four and a half hours. Now it is less than three.
Nevertheless, there is room for considerable further improvement, particularly in commuter services. Many local people work on Deeside, one of the most important industrial areas of the country. But rail services are poor and relatively infrequent, meaning most commuters travel by car, imposing further stress on the increasingly choked A55.
We need to upgrade our train services. That is why, through the all-party Parliamentary North Wales Mersey-Dee Group, I and other North Wales MPs are backing the Growth Track 360 (GT360) initiative, which is supported by politicians and businesspeople from across the region.
GT360’s aims are to secure:
- electrification of the line from Crewe to North Wales, so the region can be linked to HS2;
- doubling the frequency of trains between North Wales and Manchester;
- investment in new, modern, better equipped rolling stock;
- new services from North Wales to Liverpool and Liverpool Airport; and
- doubling journey frequency between Wrexham and Liverpool via Deeside and Bidston.
It’s an ambitious agenda, but there are signs that the Government is listening. In the Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced funding to study the feasibility of upgrading the Wrexham-Bidston line. And on Monday this week, I hosted a reception at the House of Commons in support of GT360, which was attended by Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, as well as the Welsh Assembly Government’s transport minister, both of whom spoke warmly about GT360.
There is certainly a lot of work yet to be done, but with sufficient political will, there is every prospect of better rail services for our lovely region.