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The council has welcomed parts of the national Integrated Rail Plan published today, Thursday 18 November, but is disappointed with the cuts made to High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail proposals across the north of England. The council is also cautious about the phasing and delivery timescales of the IRP.
A major part of the IRP will be the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail via a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshire. The IRP also states that High Speed 2 (HS2) from Crewe to Manchester will be on the route and line speed as previously planned, but that a Union Connectivity Review is currently considering the case for alternatives to the proposed Golborne Spur for faster and higher connections from HS2 services to Scotland.
The IPR also mentions that Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) trains will use fully electrified and upgraded lines between Liverpool and Warrington, and that the low level station at Warrington Bank Quay will be reinstated alongside the existing lines between Warrington and Liverpool being electrified and upgraded.
The proposed changes would bring positive benefits to Warrington generally, including reduced train journey times to Yorkshire, including Leeds. It would also mean that the London to Liverpool HS2 route via Warrington Bank Quay, and NPR services across the north of England would all serve Warrington.
However, disappointingly the IRP does not mention plans to provide new lines from Warrington to Liverpool and, whilst the impact of the full delivery of the IRP would be generally favourable for Warrington, the council has reservations about the overall proposals across the North of England as a whole.
It is also not wholly clear from the IRP how long the relevant schemes would take to be delivered, with estimates that some parts of the scheme, including those for Warrington, would not be completed until the early 2040s, which is later than dates previously proposed.
Cabinet member for transportation, Cllr Hans Mundry, said: “We cautiously welcome some of the proposals in the IRP but it is fair to say I have a mixed reaction to today’s announcement.
“It is clear that Warrington has been an important part of considerations in this plan and that if it is delivered in full we stand to receive a good level of enhanced support and provision. We are concerned, though, at the lengthy timescales before we would see delivery of the new line from Warrington to Marsden and improvements to the route from Liverpool to Warrington, neither of which would be completed until the early 2040s.
“I do, however, particularly welcome confirmation that the Union Connectivity Review are looking into alternatives to the proposed Golborne Link, which we have consistently opposed. We will continue to push for this not to be included in any plans and cannot see any benefits to its inclusion.
“That being said, we have reservations about the IRP as a whole and where it fits in the Levelling Up agenda, especially when we consider other regions of the North of England that are disappointed with the detail of today’s announcement. We will, however, continue to make the case for Warrington as a critical part of future rail infrastructure plans for the region and support our partners across the North of England and Transport for the North in lobbying for the north to get a better deal. The North cannot continue to ‘make do and mend’”.