Guest Article from “Growth Track 360”

Growth Track 360 welcomes Union Connectivity Review Interim Report and UK Government funding to make early progress on cross-border transport investment benefitting Wales and England

Local authority leaders from North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester in the Growth Track 360 partnership have welcomed publication of the Interim Report from the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review being led by Sir Peter Hendy.

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Growth Track 360’s submission to the Review made in December advocated investment in:

  • The East – West North Wales Coastal Corridor embracing the North Wales Coast Mainline railway and the A55 and A494 roads which connect to the UK’s national networks at Chester;
  • The North-South Corridor of the A483/A5 roads from Chester to Shrewsbury and the 
English Midlands and its associated railway – this corridor frequently crosses the border between England and Wales; and
  • Local road and rail networks to enable a North Wales Metro based on rail hubs connected to employment and residential areas by integrated bus services and active travel corridors.
  • The development of a UK-wide replacement of the EU TEN-T Network where the EU made available funds to improve connectivity across the Union subject to collaborative management of a similar UK fund by the UK government and the devolved administrations.

The submission also supported the delivery of UK strategic rail schemes to connect the area’s communities in Wales and England to:

  • HS2 at a Crewe Hub Station;
  • Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 at a Warrington interchange; and
  • Central Manchester and Manchester Airport.

In addition, the submission argued for improved ferry links between both Holyhead and Birkenhead with Northern Ireland to bring about greater connectivity faster than a fixed link from Scotland.

Growth Track 360 has also been calling for £20 million of seedcorn funding with which to accelerate progress on three key schemes to improve rail connectivity in the cross border economic powerhouse of the Mersey-Dee and North Wales.

Sir Peter’s Interim Report notes that key concerns expressed to him include:

  • Faster and higher capacity connections for passengers from HS2 to Scotland and North Wales, and consequently better freight capacity too; and
  • Better port capacity at Holyhead, and connections from Ynys Mon and the North Wales Coast to Merseyside and Manchester for freight and passengers.

Sir Peter’s Interim Report notes interest from stakeholders in the possibility of a new Irish Sea ferry route between Holyhead and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland.

Working towards publication of a final report in the summer, Sir Peter Hendy states that there is a strong strategic case for a new pan-UK transport network to improve direct transport connections between the four nations and between regions within the nations.

In a parallel announcement, the UK Government has committed £20 million towards exploring the development of four projects across the UK, one of which is “improved rail connectivity between the north coast of Wales and England”.

Growth Track 360 Chair – Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester said: “We congratulate Sir Peter Hendy on the speed and thoroughness of the Interim Report from the Union Connectivity Review and welcome the allocation of UK Government funding towards four projects including the North Wales Coast Main Line and its connections to England.”

Vice Chair – Councillor Ian Roberts, Leader of Flintshire said: “We welcome Sir Peter Hendy’s recognition of the importance of cross border transport links to the economy of North Wales and the adjoining regions of England.  We look forward to working closely with Sir Peter and his team to accelerate the priority investment schemes identified by Growth Track 360 which will unleash the full potential of our region.”

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