CHESTER MP Chris Matheson has blasted the Government's future rail plans for the north as "a damp squib".

Much of the national focus was on the Government last week unveiling its revised £96 billion rail plan for the North and Midlands.

Among the plans were building a new high-speed HS2 line from Crewe to Manchester and a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Yorkshire as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

But there was criticism at the previously planned extension of HS2 from the East Midlands to Leeds being scrapped, while the Northern Powerhouse rail between Manchester and Leeds will be a combination of new track and upgrades to existing infrastructure rather than an entirely new line.

Chester MP Chris Matheson has criticised the rail plan for completely omitting Chester, despite his calls for Government funding which could help the city's station on a number of projects.

Mr Matheson, writing in his MP's column for this week's Standard, said: "The government’s rail announcement last week was a big disappointment. The headlines will be grabbed by the scrapping of the eastern leg of HS2 and the abandoning of HS3 – the new fast line across the Pennines.

"But for Chester too it was a damp squib, in fact we didn’t even get a mention despite the fact that I and the council have lobbied ministers on a variety of projects.

"One obvious example is the electrification of the Crewe to Chester line – and onwards along the North Wales coast. Three other lines are being upgraded but not ours.

"We’ve been calling too for support for Cheshire West and Chester Council’s plans to upgrade Chester station.

"To improve track and signalling work and increase capacity – and yes, to build a safer new bridge to take Hoole Road, pedestrians and cyclists over the railway. Those plans are proceeding, slowly, but they were ignored by the government this week.

"This is called the Growth Track 360 scheme with Chester the central hub for our regional railways.

"I want to see a rail revolution for Chester and the North. So far all we get is broken promises."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson later described the announcement as "a much better plan" and said it was "total rubbish" to suggest he was breaking former promises on rail connections for the north.

Mr Matheson is also calling for more direct rail links to return between Chester and London.

Currently, only two Avanti West Cost trains are direct from Chester to London Euston, and vice versa, per day.

He said: "Meanwhile I am battling Avanti about restoring direct services between Chester and London. Constituents have also been complaining about the price of tickets to Crewe and beyond.

"Avanti’s first response to me was a standard non-reply but that isn’t going to make me shut up and go away."

In response, an Avanti West Coast spokesperson said: “Our timetable is subject to regular review in collaboration with stakeholders from Government, Network Rail and industry partners in order to provide the best balance between connectivity for customers and value for money for taxpayers.

"Whilst passenger numbers are growing across all of our routes, the rail industry - like other modes of transport - has not yet returned to pre-Covid travel levels. Of course, our aspiration is to provide greater connectivity as soon as feasible.”

The spokesperson added there are a number of regular services between Chester and Crewe, which in turn connect to London services.