£20 MILLION of improvements are being sought to revitalise the railway network in Cheshire and North Wales.

Local authority leaders across North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester are seeking the so-called 'seedcorn funding' from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in next week’s Spending Review to develop three rail improvement schemes in the borderlands region.

They are seeking improvements to the Wrexham-Liverpool rail link, a Metro concept for the North Wales Main Line and a much-needed revamp of Chester Railway Station.

Writing to Rishi Sunak MP on behalf of local authorities and business organisations in the Growth Track 360 Alliance, its chair – Cllr Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester – and vice chair – Cllr Ian Roberts, leader of Flintshire – urge the Chancellor to “seize the opportunity to strengthen the Union, generate inclusive economic growth, promote sustainable transport and reduce carbon emissions by making modest seedcorn investments in three well-developed cross-border rail modernisation schemes in North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire.”

Councillors Gittins and Roberts added: “Just £20m of development funding over the next three years would enable Growth Track 360’s constituent members and their partners to make decisive, tangible progress with these projects during the lifetime of the present Parliament."

Councillor Gittins said: “Working cross-border and cross-party, political and business leaders across North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester want to build back better from the pandemic to achieve a greener, low-carbon future of sustainable prosperity for all our communities and citizens.

"The modest seedcorn funding we are seeking from the Chancellor will enable us to move these three key rail improvement schemes to the next stage of development.”

The Chester Station modernisation plan reveals the need to upgrade.

It said: "The current station capacity and layout are a constraint on the growth of services whilst slowing down trains.

"Rapid growth in passenger numbers to around five million in 2018-19 has outstripped the capacity of the station and its facilities, including parking, toilets, ticket gates and the concourse.

"Chester station’s environment is disappointing for passengers arriving in this stunning city or changing to travel onwards into the beauty of North Wales.

"Many agencies are collaborating to improve the station’s contribution to improved connectivity and journey quality. The master planning of Chester City Gateway is subject to a tripartite commission by Cheshire West and Chester Council, London Continental Railways and Network Rail scheduled to report in early 2021.

"Without additional capacity to increase the throughput of trains at Chester, communities west of the city will be unable to connect with and benefit from the arrival of HS2 at Crewe."

The Wrexham-Liverpool line project, being developed by Transport for Wales, Liverpool City Region, Merseyrail and Network Rail, would, the report says, "transform a neglected, slow and erratic diesel train service based on hourly services run by Transport for Wales from Wrexham to Bidston, just outside Birkenhead, into a busy commuter line serving major centres of employment, three Enterprise Zones and residential areas from Wrexham through Flintshire and the Wirral directly into central Liverpool."

It added: "Currently, passengers must change trains at Bidston in order to continue into Liverpool city centre on a Merseyrail electric train over the central loop line.

"Bidston is an isolated station at an interchange of the M53 but Birkenhead is a deprived area with ambitious plans for growth symbolised by the proposed Wirral Waters development led by the Peel Group.

"An electric/battery operated direct train service every 15 minutes will be transformational, linking three major employment centres - Wrexham, Deeside and Liverpool/Birkenhead."

Finally, the North Wales Main Line revamp would "aid the development of the North Wales Metro concept, where a rail spine will be connected to employment centres, residential areas and tourist destinations by bus services and active travel corridors.

"Businesses in North Wales have long called for better access to Manchester Airport, which improvements to the Main Line will facilitate.

"Eventual electrification of the North Wales Coast Line will enable seamless connectivity with HS2 at Crewe and potentially HS2 classic-compatible trains running from London and Birmingham via Crewe to Bangor and Holyhead."