Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced £10.4 million of funding for the long campaigned-for resignalling of the 11⁄2-mile Halton Curve, to allow two-way flows (RAIL 751).
The money is part of a larger funding package announced by Osborne for four of the Liverpool City Region’s priority schemes, during a visit to Liverpool on July 3.
The line was reduced to a single track in the mid-1990s, and is currently signalled only in the Liverpool direction.
“As a City Region we’re focusing on those projects that will bring real economic and social benefit,” said Merseytravel Chairman Liam Robinson.
“The Halton Curve will improve rail links between the Liverpool City Region, Cheshire and North Wales, unlocking job and leisure opportunities. Improvements to Newton-le-Willows station will boost the benefits of electrification.”
Osborne said on July 3: “Today I am backing the Atlantic Gateway even further, with nearly £35m of government funding for four projects here in Liverpool… over £10m funding for the Halton Curve project, a railway line to connect up Liverpool, Cheshire, Warrington and North Wales. I’ve set out my plan to create a Northern Powerhouse - today we start to deliver it.”
East Runcorn MP Graham Evans said: “I have been campaigning strongly for this vital rail link for a number of years, working closely with the Chancellor, the Department for Transport, Merseytravel, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Halton Council and Mid-Cheshire Rail Users Group.”
However, the way ahead for the scheme is not clear, with Merseytravel telling RAIL that a demand study is due to be finalised at the end of July. A GRIP 3 study (option selection) will be started shortly, and should be complete within six to nine months. The demand study will contribute to an outline business case that will inform the GRIP 3 study and a final business case.
“All schemes awarded under Growth Deal funding are subject to the development of a robust business case before the scheme progresses,” it said.
Network Rail said: “We are working with Merseytravel regarding the Halton Curve, and are committed to working with all our industry stakeholders to provide a better railway which helps to promote and support economic growth. We will continue to liaise with all our partners as this scheme progresses.”
Network Rail is leading the GRIP 3 study, and will be delivering the Halton Curve work.
Merseytravel added. “Combining the Halton Curve work with that scheduled for Wavertree to Weaver Junction section will allow for economies of scale to minimise the overall costs.”
In January this year it was hoped that the Curve could re-open in 2016 (RAIL 741).