Political leaders from Liverpool City Region, Warrington, and Cheshire West & Chester have combined to condemn part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposal it says would “short-change” the region.
The Department for Transport’s “option 5.1 route” for the NPR section between Liverpool and Manchester would see the Fiddlers Ferry line, previously used to take coal trains to the power station, upgraded to become part of the NPR network.
The leaders want to see construction of a new Liverpool-Manchester line, via Warrington, as they believe that the upgrade option would only exacerbate existing capacity issues.
They say that Option 5.1 would put greater strain on the existing west coast mainline lines going into Liverpool Lime Street, compromising capacity for local services, hampering the ability to increase freight services to the Port of Liverpool, and not addressing Liverpool-Manchester journey times, which have previously been billed as having a target of 20 minutes.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State Grant Shapps ahead of yesterday’s Transport for the North meeting, the leaders outlined their concerns that 5.1 has “become a departmental fixation that could be imposed upon us as a fait accompli”.
The letter said that “it is very clear that much of the fication on Option 5.1 centres around cost”.
Reasons for rejecting the option were listed as that it:
- Fails to deliver the promised reduction to journey times between Liverpool and Manchester.
- Limits the potential for expanding rail freight capacity.
- Fails to offer connectivity upgrades between Cheshire and North Wales.
- Creates unnecessary disruption during its construction phase.
- Lacks value for money based on an underestimation of its cost.
The letter was signed by Steve Rotheram, metro mayor of Liverpool City Region; Cllr Liam Robinson, LCR transport portfolio holder; Cllr Louise Gittins, leader of CWAC; Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment, highways & strategic transport at CWAC; Cllr Russ Bowden, leader of Warrington Borough Council; and Cllr Hans Mundry, Warrington’s cabinet member for transportation, highways and public realm.