42 hospitality and leisure companies including Chester Zoo, hotel group Oddfellows, and holiday cottages group Sykes Cottages have signed up in support of the Growth Track 360 campaign to secure the investment needed to deliver change across the wider region’s rail services.
Overall the online campaign has attracted supportive responses from over 400 companies representing over 300,000 people across the wider region. People can still show their support for Growth Track 360 by signing up to the campaign online at www.growthtrack360.com
The Growth Track 360 campaign is being driven by the North Wales and Mersey Dee Rail Task Force (NW&MD) and has the backing of the region’s eight local authorities, the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, the Mersey Dee Alliance, the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the North Wales Business Council and the West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce.
It is calling for:
- The electrification of the line from Crewe to North Wales so the region can be linked to HS2 and fast London trains can continue to Bangor and Holyhead
- The doubling of frequency of trains between the North Wales Coast Line and Wrexham to Manchester through Chester
- Investment in new, modern, better-equipped rolling stock
- The creation of new services between Liverpool and Liverpool Airport to North Wales and Wrexham via Chester (Halton Curve)
- The doubling of journey frequency between Wrexham and Liverpool via Deeside and Bidston
Jonathan Slater, MD of Oddfellows, said: “Transport links around the region are important to us as a growing business, in order that we can move our staff and stock around easily. A large percentage of our business comes from within our region, particularly Manchester and Liverpool, and infrequent and time-consuming rail transport is often reported as a negative by these customers. If it could be improved, we would see a definite positive impact to our business.”
Liz Carnie, Finance Director at Chester Zoo, said: “Chester Zoo attracts 1.7 million visitors each year. We work in partnership with transport operators to promote the use of sustainable public transport to our visitors. Improved rail services to Chester will ensure our current and future visitors view rail travel as a viable and attractive way of reaching the zoo and the city, which will deliver positive impacts to our city and our environment.”
Miles Hill, Chief Executive of Sykes Cottages, said: “We have ambitious growth plans over the next five years, and an efficient and effective rail infrastructure linking Chester to both the North West region and the rest of the UK is key requirement in helping us to realise these goals. We work with many businesses in both the North West and London, and travel times to both regions are currently similar!
“A fast, reliable ‘integrated’ rail network would not only bring us benefits in efficiency but encourage further cross-region collaboration, which will help the North West to stand out on the national stage and benefit the regional economy. We employ some 200 people at our HQ building, many of whom commute from outside the city. Improved rail links would not only ensure our existing colleagues have sensible commutes to work, but would help us to overcome one of the biggest recruitment challenges we currently face – attracting quality talent to the area.”
Samantha Dixon, Chair of the North Wales and Mersey Dee Rail Taskforce, said: “Good connectivity is a vital element of a healthy, growing economy – enabling the flow of goods and services, and crucially, helping companies attract and retain a talented, skilled workforce. The level of support for the campaign on both sides of the border and from all sectors of the economy really demonstrates how critical it is that change is delivered. We look forward to seeing continued momentum behind the campaign as we work to ensure our railways are future-fit and up to the task of opening up wider region and improving its economic capability.”
Initial research suggests that the Growth Track 360 package of investments would support the delivery of an estimated 70,000 new jobs across the North Wales and Mersey Dee region and the fast-tracking of economic growth so that GVA (the value of goods and services produced each year in the region) grows to £50.5bn in 20 years.
Companies from a variety of sectors across North Wales, Cheshire and Mersey Dee including financial, professional and logistical services; advanced manufacturing, construction and engineering; and tourism, hospitality, leisure and retail added their support to the survey.
Businesses cited different reasons for their support, over 75 per cent of bigger companies cited the time savings Growth Track 360 would deliver as their primary motivation for supporting the campaign. 64 percent of smaller businesses said the campaign would give them better access to customers. While around 54 per cent of smaller companies also thought improved rail services would improve recruitment and help them to expand and create jobs.
Businesses also said campaign would help to reduce A55 traffic, create better connections to the rest of the UK, and have a positive impact on the environment by reducing diesel train usage.