Improving Wrexham and Flintshire’s rail infrastructure is key to unlocking north Wales’ huge economic potential.
That was the view of Welsh Government economy secretary Ken Skates, speaking exclusively to the Leader about ambitious future plans for transport in the area.
Mr Skates said plans for the North East Wales Metro, alongside a ‘modern, high quality’ transport system in Wrexham, could help draw down greater investment.
He said: “Improving rail infrastructure in Wrexham and across North Wales is a key priority for the Welsh Government over the next few years.
“By building a modern, high quality transport system in Wrexham and across North Wales we can realise the huge economic potential the region has.
“By connecting businesses to markets and facilitating greater trade and exchange we can help local firms take greater advantage of the opportunities that exist in the Northern Powerhouse and at the same time attract greater inward investment into towns like Wrexham.
“The Welsh Government has already committed an additional £50 million to move forward our plans for the North East Wales Metro and will ensure the new Wales and Borders franchise from 2018 delivers for communities across North Wales.
“We have an ambitious vision for transport in Wrexham and across North Wales and we will continue to engage and collaborate with public, private and third sector partners in the area as we develop our plans.”
Mr Skates said Welsh Government officials were working with Merseyrail to explore how passengers in North Wales can benefit from direct services from Liverpool which would be enabled by the reinstatement of the Halton Curve.
Network Rail have recently completed their works, funded by the Welsh Government, to double the lines north of Wrexham.
And it is hoped this investment will increase future capacity and slash journey times.
Mr Skates added the Welsh Government was now working to develop options to improve the reliability, resilience and journey times of the services benefiting from this investment, and exploring what additional services could be delivered in the future.
He said: “We are working closely with Network Rail and rail operators to develop these options and provide significant improvements to rail services for passengers in the Wrexham area.
“We will have more clarity on the approach in autumn 2017.”
Meanwhile, work has started on developing business cases for 12 new stations in order to attract funding if it becomes available, including at Deeside Industrial Park, North Wrexham and South Wrexham.
Mr Skates told the Leader the Welsh Government was also working to push its Westminister counterpart to recognise the importance of modernising the North Wales Main Line and commit to developing it further.
He said: “We are identifying a range of potential interventions for the short, medium and longer term, to maximise the benefit of cross border connectivity into England, Ireland and beyond.
“In order to ensure North Wales benefits from the significant amount of investment being directed towards HS2, we have emphasised the importance of ensuing efficient interchange between North Wales services at Crewe.
“The design of the Crewe hub is crucial to ensuring that passengers to and from Wales can access the HS2 network quickly and efficiently, and benefit from the significant investment being made to reduce journey times and improve connectivity.”