Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has joined other North West leaders in rejecting a Government plan for a New Liverpool to Manchester rail line saying it is wholly inadequate. Tony McDonough reports
North West political leaders, including Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, have branded a Government plan to increase rail capacity as “cheap and nasty”.
Mr Rotheram, and his city region transport chief Cllr Liam Robinson, have joined leaders from Warrington, and Cheshire West and Chester in letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps slamming a proposal for a new line between Liverpool and Manchester.
Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), supported by the regional leaders, has proposed a new line between the two cities, calling at Warrington, that would slash journey times to just 20 minutes. They claim this would offer benefits worth £16bn and free up vital capacity for the movement of freight.
However, the Government is pushing the so-called option 5.1 route which would would see a line that was previously used to transport coal to Fiddlers Ferry power station utilised and brought into the NPR network. The North West leaders says this is a “cheap and nasty” option that fails to deliver on what is needed for the following reasons:
- 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.
In the strongly-worded letter to Mr Shapps, the leaders say: “Working through Transport for the North, we have worked closely with your department for several years now on this project to identify the best transformational route for the North West.
“We are, therefore, deeply disappointed and frustrated to have to write to you as elements in your department are insistent that option 5.1 remains one of the shortlisted routes.
“Furthermore, it appears that more detailed work has been done on this route option than any of the other potential routes. Indeed, we are very concerned that 5.1 has almost become a departmental fixation that could be imposed upon us as a fait accompli.”
The letter adds that because option 5.1 is a circuitous route it fails to deliver significant journey time improvements between Liverpool and Manchester. It also points out that it fails to provide the extra freight capacity needed for the expanding Port of Liverpool.
It said: “As 5.1 relies on utilising a large stretch of the existing West Coast Mainline into Liverpool, this will significantly compromise capacity for local train services and crucially the potential for further freight services serving the Port of Liverpool.
“Now that the UK has left the European Union, growth of freight from the Port of Liverpool is of vital national importance and it is essential that we release more rail capacity to deal with this, and in doing so help to tackle the climate emergency- something 5.1 fails to deliver.
“We have consistently demonstrated pragmatism and our willingness to work towards a compromise solution, but will not allow our area to be short-changed, with a sub-optimal option that fails to meet the Government’s own transformative targets for our area and union connectivity.”