North Wales Metro plans a major boost for region

The Welsh Labour Government’s ambitious proposals to deliver a North Wales Metro are advancing, despite a chronic lack of investment in Wales’ rail infrastructure from the UK Government.

Metro programmes have been initiated by the Welsh Government in the South East, the South West and the North of Wales and Wrexham’s Assembly Member, Lesley Griffiths has welcomed the latest update outlining the progress and effect the project will have on our region.

Overall, the Metros aim to better integrate regional transport systems, utilising trains, buses and the active travel network to better connect people to places for work, life and leisure purposes.

The spine of the Metro in North Wales will be a major upgrade of the Borderlands line to offer ‘turn up and go’ services from Wrexham and, working with Merseytravel, deliver services all the way to Liverpool.

Welsh Government wishes to invest in rail infrastructure enhancements in the Wrexham area and a £10 million budget will aim to increase frequency of services through Wrexham General Station in the coming years.  In addition to upgrading Wrexham North Junction, further improvements are being looked at aimed at improving line speeds, level crossings and signals, which would all potentially help reduce journey times.

Regarding the wider region, plans are in the pipeline to develop key regional hubs, for example at Shotton, to provide an interchange between rail services, as well as cohesive bus services across area.

To effectively deliver integrated, attractive services across the North Wales Coast and the Borderlands line, the Welsh Government believes new all-stop commuter services must complement faster, long-distance services running on an upgraded, electrified mainline.

Lesley Griffiths AM said: “Wrexham is at the heart of the North Wales Metro and the ambitious proposals for our region are welcome.”

“Developing an efficient, affordable, fully integrated transport system will greatly improve connectivity, help protect the environment and deliver economic growth.”

Ultimately, the Welsh Government remains severely constrained as rail infrastructure is the responsibility of the UK Government in Westminster.

Latest figures suggest Wales has 11% of GB’s track miles, 5% of the population and since 2010 has received only 2% of rail enhancement spend.

The situation is especially bleak for Wales when compared to our UK counterparts.  Rail infrastructure is devolved in Scotland and Northern Ireland meaning both nations have greater control over their respective networks.  Unlike Wales, it also means Scotland and Northern Ireland benefit from consequential funding when major public spending projects take place in England.

Lesley Griffiths AM added: “Despite the positive work initiated by the Welsh Government helping mitigate the lack of investment, the current arrangement is restrictive and results in Wales being in an undesirable position.”

“Until rail devolution is secured, the Welsh Government relies on the UK Government to improve wider network capability, capacity and resilience but judging by the Tories’ chronic underinvestment and neglectful record in Wales, I am sceptical as to whether improvements will be forthcoming.”

“The recent announcement to proceed with HS2 underlines the lack of investment in Wales and I support the First Minister and Economy Minister who have called for the UK Government to provide significant additional funding.”