The Office of Road and Rail (ORR) has granted shared access to the Wrexham to Bidston Borderlands Line for Transport for Wales (TfW) and Great British Railfreight (GBRf).
The decision will enable a significant increase in passenger services by Transport for Wales, moving from hourly services to half-hourly services for most of the day, whilst protecting existing freight services provided by GBRf for Hanson Cement.
Cheshire West and Chester Councillor Louise Gittins, Chair of Growth Track 360 said, “The ORR decision is a good one. Freight services on the Borderlands Line take heavy goods lorries off the roads, reducing pollution, traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
“Additional TfW passenger services will increase the value of the Borderlands Line to local people in accessing work, services and leisure facilities and will boost the local economy.
“The decision represents a compromise between the freight and passenger operators for which they should be congratulated. We can now move on to kickstart greater use of the line and improve connectivity between Wrexham and Liverpool and the many significant employment and residential zones along the line.”
Cheshire West and Chester Councillor Ian Roberts, Vice Chair of Growth Track 360 said, “The key message from the ORR decision is that there must be urgent investment in the Wrexham to Bidston Borderlands line starting with UK Government backing for Flintshire’s Levelling Up Fund Bid that proposes an upgrade to the Hanson Cement Freight Sidings and a new Deeside Station to serve Deeside Industrial Park.
“The Flintshire Levelling Up Fund Bid for the Borderlands Line was prepared by Transport for Wales. It is supported by Hanson Cement and Members of Parliament in the Mersey Dee Area. It will unlock the potential of a long-neglected railway asset for both passengers and freight, enabling sustainable economic growth.
“Now that this decision has been made Transport for Wales must seize the day and introduce the proposed new passenger services as soon as possible.”
Growth Track 360 Business Representative, Ashley Rogers, Chief Executive of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, said, “The gap in passenger services to enable freight movements will be at traditional peak hours, which is a potential, long-term drawback for passenger services. The freight operator also has aspirations to further increase freight services to reduce heavy road haulage and carbon emissions. The ORR decision is short term compromise, pending much needed investment to increase capacity on the line.
“An urgent upgrade is needed to the Hanson Cement freight sidings as proposed in the recent Flintshire Bid to the Levelling Up Fund. This will enable Transport for Wales to deliver half hourly services all through the day and potentially increase the service level from two trains per hour in the future if patronage increases, whilst enabling more freight services.
“The ORR decision is the first step on the journey of investment and service improvement to make better use of this fantastic and under-utilised rail asset for our region.”