North Wales and Mersey Dee (NW&MD) Rail Taskforce has renewed calls for major improvements to be delivered by the new Wales and Borders Franchise.
The taskforce currently leads the Growth Track 360 campaign, and its calls for improvements comes at a time when preferred bidders Abellio, Arriva, KeolisAmey and MTR have submitted their bids for this franchise, which is scheduled to be awarded in October 2018.
NW&MD Rail Taskforce chair councillor Samantha Dixon said: “To put it simply, people living in North Wales, Wirral and Cheshire have put up with substandard rail services for too long, and the new Wales and Borders Franchise presents an unmissable opportunity to put the right structures in place to deliver change.
“There were substantial flaws in the current franchise which we hope will be addressed.
"Key among these is the fact that the current agreement made no allowance for passenger growth or provision for additional trains; this has significantly hamstrung the potential to develop and modernise services, and has left the quality of our rail service lagging behind that of other regions.”
This opportunity to update the franchise agreement is expected to enable future improvements to rail services across the region, as well as provide upgraded services to the people in the cross border communities.
The Welsh Affairs Select Committee submitted the parliamentary report of inquiry into the Wales and Borders Franchise in January, which provided multiple recommendations for improvements to the new franchise model, including the purchase of new rolling stock.
The report stated that the current rolling stock, with an average age of 27 years, is a key obstacle to providing passenger satisfaction.
It also recommended the electrification of the network, in addition to line speed and signalling improvements, station facilities upgrades and increased capacity at stations.
NW&MD taskforce provided evidence to the committee and highlighted the importance of maintaining the major cross-border passenger flows and prioritisation of the electrification of the North Wales line.
The rail taskforce includes political and public sector leaders and representatives, and intends to improve rail operations across Cheshire, Wirral and North Wales.
Image: Councillor Samantha Dixon. Photo: courtesy of Growth Track 360/ North Wales and Mersey Dee Rail Taskforce.