WORK to boost Cheshire and Merseyside’s rail links is entering a new stage this month.

Upgrades will start again on the 1.5 miles of ‘Halton Curve’ rail track near Frodsham on the weekends of February 10 and 11, and February 17 and 18.

When completed, vital 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.

Trains will not stop at Frodsham station on the weekends that upgrade work is taking place

However, passengers will face disruption as the work is carried out with no trains serving Frodsham, Helsby and Runcorn East over these weekends. A replacement bus service will be operating.

The services, proposed to start running from December 2018, are expected to generate 250,000 new trips, boosting the economy by £100m.

Network Rail’s Team Orange will be renewing track, recovering old signals and commissioning new colour-light signals and associated signalling equipment in the Frodsham area.

A new modern, signalling panel will be installed inside Frodsham signal box in place of the traditional mechanical levers which have been used to control the train movements on the Chester-Warrington line and Halton Curve since the 1900s.

A more modern, advanced system will mean more reliable train services for passengers for generations to come.

This Merseytravel scheme, due to cost a maximum £18.75m, is being funded through the Government's Growth Deal and the Liverpool City Region.

It is being developed by the Liverpool City Region (including Halton Council), Cheshire West and Cheshire Council, the Welsh Government and a consortium of the six county authorities in North Wales.

It is part of the £340m investment in the Liverpool City Region and sits within Network Rail’s Great North Rail Project – a multi-billion pound investment plan to transform train travel across the North.

Passengers travelling between Chester and Manchester are advised to check before they travel.

A train on the Halton line before the upgrade work began

Train services between Chester and Manchester will be diverted with rail replacement bus services running between Frodsham, Helsby and Runcorn East.

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “I welcome news of continued progress on this vital transport link.

“One of the key elements of transforming the city region is improving connectivity, which includes ensuring that people can reach as many work and leisure opportunities as possible. 

”This link will help do just that for people across our city region, Cheshire and North Wales.”

Liam Robinson, chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee which oversees the work of Merseytravel, added: "It’s really great to see the continued progress on the Halton Curve scheme as part of the on-going investment in rail infrastructure taking place in the Liverpool city region.

“This is part of a £340m investment in the City Region's rail network by the end of 2019 that will improve connections and the capacity – investment that only marks the start of our ambitions.

“While this does mean some short-term disruptions for passengers in the area while work is carried out, the long-term benefits of increased and more reliable travel options to and from Chester and North Wales will make it worthwhile.”

Karla Telford, project manager at Network Rail, said: “Our upgrades to the Halton Curve – a relatively small stretch of track in Frodsham – is a vital part of our Great North Rail Project that will unlock leisure and business opportunities between the Liverpool City Region, its airport, Cheshire and North Wales.

“Improved rail links are vital to boost the local economy and it is incredibly exciting that our work will enable a new hourly service between Liverpool and Chester by the end of this year.”

An Arriva Trains Wales spokesperson said: “We have been working with our partners at Network Rail to minimise any impact caused by this important upgrade work. Passengers may find their journey takes slightly longer as we are diverting many services, or an alternative connection may be available.

“There will be no trains serving Frodsham, Helsby and Runcorn East over these weekends with rail replacement bus services on hand to keep passengers on the move. We are advising customers to check their journey plans on-line before travelling and please allow extra time for their journey.”