Merseytravel publishes 30-year rail blueprint

Ambitious plans for investment in rail infrastructure in and around Merseyside have been published ahead of their ratification by Merseytravel next month.

The wishlist of schemes, not all of which it expects to deliver, Merseytravel said, include:

Improve national connections: Increasing frequency of Liverpool-London services; new direct routes to Scotland and South Wales; extending platforms at Liverpool South Parkway to take longer trains

Expand Merseyrail network: Replacing stock with higher capacity units with the capability to run on parts of the network where they do not currently; power upgrade; improvements to station accessibility

Increase Liverpool city centre capacity: Encourage more use of James St and Moorfields stations especially at peak times; extend and increase platforms at Lime Street to accommodate additional services, including high speed trains; create more platform space at Liverpool Central; investigate potential for a new city centre station

Improve connectivity on City line: Improve level and quality of services in line with the success of Merseyrail. Increasing capacity at Wavertree junction for services between Mossley Hill and Edge Hill; extending Merseyrail services between South Parkway and the Airport, Speke and Runcorn; creating new stations to serve the universities and Smithdown Road corridor.

Facilitate quality service on Cheshire line: Electrification and capacity enhancements allowing for more and faster trains; extending Merseyrail services to Warrington and beyond; new stations at Tarbock Interchange (or Halewood South) and Warrington West

Connect via Halton Curve: Restoring direct connections to Wrexham and North Wales from Liverpool and Liverpool Airport; faster journeys and increased frequency to Chester; direct link to Frodsham and Helsby; creating an alternative route between Liverpool and Cardiff via Shrewsbury.

Improve connections to Chester and Ellesmere Port: Electrification of Chester-Crewe line (Crewe being HS2 hub), North Wales mainline and Chester- Warrington line and Ellesmere Port – Helsby line; new route between Chester and Leeds via Newton-le-Willows.

Serve new development on Southport-Wigan and Ormskirk-Preston line: Improving links with new developments in West Lancashire and South Preston. Electrification of the Ormskirk-Preston line; reinstatement of Burscough curves between Ormskirk/Preston and Southport directions; interchange station at Burscough Bridge allowing connections between Ormskirk/Liverpool services and Southport/Wigan services.

Connect to Skelmersdale and new development in Wigan: Electrification of the line between Kirkby and Wigan; electric spurs between Rainford and Skelmersdale and Upholland and Skelmersdale; new stations at Headbolt Lane (Kirkby) and Skelmersdale; increased services between Kirkby and Manchester Victoria/Rochdale line.

Enhance the Borderlands line: Increase service frequency between Wrexham and Bidston; new station at Deeside industrial Park; full electrification of the line longer term. This would be incorporated into the Merseyrail Wirral line.

Convert freight lines to passenger usage: Review the findings of the Northern Ports study to better understand the requirements for freight access to Port of Liverpool, but current plans include upgrade of North Mersey and Bootle branchlines to passenger services creating new routes to Ormskirk and Edge Hill; new stations at Anfield, Tuebrook and Edge Lane.

Selected new stations: Responding to new developments, new markets and areas of latent demand, including stations that do not fit into other packages. Proposed new stations at Carr Mill, Ditton, Maghull North, St James, Vauxhall, Town Meadow. All these would be subject to an evaluation exercise to better understand the potential. This would have to be satisfied before progressing to the statutory development framework.

Cllr Liam Robinson, chairman of Merseytravel, said: "This is real 'big picture' thinking by the Liverpool City Region. Such strategies are not traditionally driven by local bodies. Doing it this way, working with Network Rail, ensures that our transport planning is intrinsically linked to our economic planning.

"There's growing confidence in our City Region economy and a recognition of the key role that we have in the 'northern powerhouse' as a means to rebalance the whole UK economy. But this can only be properly realised by ensuring that we are geared up for a significant increase in passengers and freight over the next 30 years.

"The rail strategy is about co-ordination and building on our successes, most notably the Merseyrail network. It is about ensuring that the rail connections we have within our city region link seamlessly with those beyond, not only to what we would consider the untapped potential of local catchment areas such as North Wales and Skelmersdale but to London and to places like Manchester and across the Pennines to Leeds through better, faster and more frequent connections.

"Delivering on our strategy will make us 'HS2 ready' and it puts us ahead of the game in taking forward east – west connectivity across the north. The need for City Regions to develop their own plans to feed into this bigger picture was one of the recommendations of the 'One North' report presented to the Chancellor earlier this month."

A spokesman for Merseytravel said: "The Long Term Rail Strategy, developed by Merseytravel as strategic transport advisor to the Combined Authority, is intended to be regularly reviewed to ensure it reflects changing economic circumstances and funding opportunities over the next 30 years. All individual schemes proposed will demand full feasibility studies and robust business cases to progress.

"As a result of all these factors, it is unlikely that all those projects listed will become a reality. Conversely, there may be new schemes proposed during the life of the strategy in response to new demands, for instance, as yet, unplanned regeneration schemes."

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