A key priority for me since my election to Parliament has been to improve public transport connectivity in order to help Level Up our region. There have been long term issues around investment in rail services to and from North Wales.
It is vital that rail infrastructure is improved so that we can tackle key issues such as deprivation and boost the economy of the region.
Existing rail services have, in recent times, been severely impacted by the pandemic, compounding connectivity issues.
I have been involved in efforts to improve action on both fronts during my time in office.
Until appointment as Minister, I was Chair of the Mersey Dee and North Wales All Party Parliamentary Group, and I worked with Growth Track 360, the Mersey Dee Alliance and other political, business and local authority leaders to put forward the strong case for cross-border rail infrastructure investment.
I have emphasised to Ministerial colleagues that investing in rail is one of the best ways to boost our regional productivity, create employment opportunities and address the need to hit our Net Zero Carbon target.
I have met the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rail Minister, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport to put to them directly the need for improved rail services in the region.
I have also put this issue directly to the Prime Minister, and he confirmed that Network Rail has now received funding to carry out feasibility work on improving the North Wales Main Line. You can see this contribution here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOj_GrBFZZo
It was also very welcome that, after making many representations on the issue myself, the Union Connectivity Review recognised the persistent calls of Growth Track 360 for rail improvements into our region. I also raised this directly with the Prime Minister after the interim report findings were published: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GI1lN9pXfgk
I have continually made representations to Transport and Treasury Ministers to ensure that the changes needed in rail infrastructure in North Wales are prioritised. Therefore, I was delighted by the Prime Minister's announcement that he will be investing £1billion to allow for electrification of the North Wales mainline. This will improve journey times and reliability and reduce the carbon footprint on the route.
I will be working to make sure this progresses as quickly as possible.
However in the meantime, I also continue to raise the serious concerns of constituents at the standard of the Welsh Government's nationalised "Transport for Wales" rail services. These have the worst performance figures and the worst customer satisfaction rate of all rail services in Great Britain. I am pleased that in November 2023 the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) launched an investigation into poor train punctuality and reliability. The ORR has found that performance is continuing to deteriorate while the wider network across Great Britain has seen performance stabilising.
I have also expressed my significant concern that Avanti West Coast services have remained far less frequent than before the pandemic and are still unreliable.