MerseyRail has announced that the final phase of the upgrade on ‘Halton Curve’ near Frodsham was completed over the Bank Holiday Weekend as planned.
This now allows the Train Operating Company to prepare to begin regular passenger train services later in 2018.
Network Rail completed the work on schedule and within the initial budget set.
The vital track work brings back full use of the section of the line that links the Chester to Warrington line with the Liverpool to Crewe line at Frodsham Junction. This will enable a new hourly service from December 2018 between Liverpool and Chester serving Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway (for Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby. It is hoped that in the future that the train services can be expanded into North Wales.
The Frodsham Control Area has been re-signalled and the signal box now has a new modern signalling panel to control train movements in the area. The signalling in Halton area has been transferred to the Manchester Rail Operating Centre.
The Halton Curve Project has cost £18.75 million and has been funded through the Government’s Local Growth Fund and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
The project is part of a £340m investment in the Liverpool City Region and sits with the Great North Rail Project.
The new hourly service will be operated by KeolisAmey Cymru, who take over the Wales and Borders Franchise from December this year. It will generate 250,000 new trips and will unlock business and leisure opportunities between Liverpool, Cheshire and North Wales.
What did the officials say?
Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Metro Mayor, said:
“The Halton Curve is one of many ambitious rail schemes across the Liverpool City Region being delivered by the Combined Authority this year, in this case thanks to a significant investment from the Government’s Local Growth Fund towards the £18.75m cost.
“Increased capacity and more frequent trains between Liverpool and Chester, with a potential to expand into North Wales, will mean more people can travel more easily – unlocking many more opportunities, including the potential for people in our city region to find jobs in Cheshire and North Wales.”
Cllr Liam Robinson, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Transport Portfolio Holder, said:
“It’s great news that the Halton Curve scheme has been completed both on schedule and within budget and we can’t wait for services to start running later this year.
“While it may only be a one and a half miles long piece of track, it is the key to unlocking so many more opportunities for people in our City Region, Cheshire and North Wales.
“This is part of a £340m investment in the City Region’s rail network by the end of 2019 that will improve connections and the capacity – investment that only marks the start of our ambitions, with further schemes in Maghull and Newton-le-Willows due for completion in the near future.”
Ken Skates, Welsh Government Transport Secretary, said:
“Improved rail connectivity between North Wales and Liverpool will create significant economic and social opportunities for passengers and businesses. Today’s announcement is a major step towards delivering these improvements.
“We will continue to work closely with our cross-border partners including Merseytravel to maximise the opportunities and benefits that will arise from the new Wales and Borders franchise and make it easier for people to commute between the regions.”
Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s London North Western route managing director, said:
“The Halton Curve project has been the perfect example of the rail industry and Liverpool City Region working together to deliver real benefits to the people of Liverpool and beyond.
“Improved rail links are vital to boost the local economy, and it is expected that this key upgrade in the Liverpool City Region will boost the economy by £100m.
“Our teams have worked tirelessly since July 2017 to deliver this work ready for the new timetable in December. This is another fantastic example of our Great North Rail Project delivering for customers across the north.”