Network Rail has started work on the 1.5 mile-long stretch of rail track intended to unlock leisure and business opportunities between the Liverpool city region, its airport, Cheshire and North Wales.
The Halton Curve scheme brings back into full use a section of line that links the Chester/Warrington line and the Liverpool/Crewe line at Frodsham Junction.
Upgrades to track and signalling on the curve will enable a new hourly service, in both directions, between Liverpool and Chester, serving Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway for Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.
The services, proposed to start running from December 2018, will generate 250,000 new trips, it is estimated. More frequent services, and services extending into North Wales, are being considered as part of the forthcoming Wales and Borders franchise.
The upgrade forms part of Network Rail’s Great North Rail Project which will see over £1bn invested in the railway across the north.
The Halton Curve project will cost up to £18.75m and is being funded through the Government’s Growth Deal and the Liverpool City Region.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “People shouldn’t be constrained in their work or leisure opportunities, as there are so many to be had across our city region, Cheshire and North Wales. These can start to be fully realised through this much-needed link.
“This isn’t a project in isolation but part of the overarching vision for connectivity within the Liverpool City Region and the wider North to join up north-south HS2 rail infrastructure with west-east Northern Powerhouse Rail to Liverpool.”
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said: “The government has invested more than £16m in the Halton Curve, as part of our plans to improve transport across the Northern Powerhouse.
“Just as the Northern Powerhouse is a long-term government priority, this investment will provide lasting benefits with a predicted £100m boost to the local economy.”