Business leaders have hailed news that the North Wales main line is to be electrified as a “once-in-a-generation boost” for the region.
According to the North Wales Business Council, the electrified line would help provide faster, cleaner and more frequent train services.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
During his speech it was confirmed that the HS2 leg between Birmingham and Manchester was going to be scrapped after the costs spiralled and that the £36 billion saved from cancelling that section, would now all be used on other projects across UK. The move received an angry reception from local political and business leaders in Manchester.
One of these alternative projects listed in the Prime Ministers’ speech was the electrification of the North Wales Mainline, which is believed to cost in the region of £1bn.
Clare Budden, Chair of the North Wales Business Council, said: “The axing of the HS2 leg to Manchester is not good news for such a pivotal piece of UK transport investment.’
“However we have been calling for many years for the full electrification of the North Wales Mainline and to finally have commitment for this is a real positive and making the best out of a bad situation.
“This is a much-needed, once-in-a-generation investment in our railway infrastructure, supporting Net Zero and hopefully improved services for businesses, residents and visitors alike.
“This is a big deal but we need certainty it will be delivered in full and by when.”
Ashley Rogers, CEO of the Business Council said: “We welcome the news of this investment as an existing major ask for our region.
“With the exception of funding for the Wrexham to Bidston line, we presume that a lot of the already identified investment priorities in rail we have been campaigning for like improving line speeds and improving Chester station, would happen as part of this full electrification project.”
“We do have to be cautious however, as the devil is in the detail. It would be good to have confirmation of when funding will start to flow and in which years will we see spades in the ground.
“Essential development funding for example is needed immediately to move the project forward. Our connectivity into Manchester and Liverpool is also vital, so those areas also need support for funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail.”
The news was also welcomed by Jim Jones, the chief executive of North Wales Tourism.
He said: “Transport connectivity is incredibly important in terms of tourism and the flow of visitors in and out of North Wales, especially this link between London and Holyhead.
“News about electrification of the North Wales line is long overdue because this is a vitally important strategic route and tourism is central to the economic recovery here in North Wales.
“Let’s not lose the focus on today though. In recent years, there has been a serious decline in the quality of the train service linking North Wales and London and at one point the number of direct trains was slashed to just three a day.
“While things have improved, it’s still a poor imitation of the service we had before the pandemic.”