A meeting of the Liverpool City Combined Authority on Friday approved projects aimed at improving travel across the city region, including the Halton Curve rail scheme and the development of proposals to gain control of Merseyrail stations.
The 1.5-mile Halton Curve line aims to open up leisure and work opportunities by offering new connections between Liverpool, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Runcorn, Frodsham, Helsby, Chester and, in future, North Wales. Work is due to start on site in June 2017 and be completed by May 2018.
Bringing the line back into use will see, initially, an hourly direct service between Liverpool and Chester, with the extension of services into Wales taken forward in collaboration with the Welsh Government. The intention is to include the services in the revised specification for the forthcoming Wales and Borders franchise.
Approval of the business case unlocks the £10.4m allocated to the scheme through the Government’s local growth fund. The Combined Authority also approved an additional £5.67m of local growth funding for the project, reflecting the level of funding required to meet the highest estimated cost of the project, which is £18.75m.
The scheme is part of the £340m infrastructure investment by Network Rail and the Liverpool City Region over the next three years.
The Combined Authority also approved a Bus Alliance agreement between Merseytravel and the two biggest bus operators in Liverpool, Arriva and Stagecoach. The alliance is targeting improvements for the bus services and an increase in pare-paying passengers by 10% by the end of March 2017.
The first 12 months of the Alliance will see a number of initiatives including an initial £19m investment in greener buses with free WiFi and USB charging points; the introduction of one point of contact for customer service; new customer service training for drivers; improved links to John Lennon Airport and the rail network; the development of a trial 24-hour bus route and the start of a strategic review to create a simpler, clearer bus network.
At the same meeting, members agreed to the development of proposals that would see the Liverpool City Region take greater control of stations on the Merseyrail network, currently owned and managed by Network Rail.
Options on the models that would best allow decisions to be made in the long-term interests of stations on the Merseyrail network will be developed by Merseytravel and a range of partners by late summer, for the Combined Authority and the Government to consider.