North East Wales

£36m Wrexham-Chester rail re-doubling plans 'in limbo'

Railway tracks
Image caption The works were supposed to be completed by early 2015

A Wrexham councillor says a proposed £36m investment in the railway line between the town and Chester has been left "in limbo".

Seven miles (11km) of single track is due to be re-doubled as part of the north-south Wales journey time project funded by the Welsh government.

Transport Minister Edwina Hart is now reviewing the plans, but Coun Phil Wynn branding it "deeply worrying".

Network Rail, contracted to deliver the scheme, is "re-examining the options".

The track to be re-doubled has been a single line since the 1980s.

Re-doubling would allow trains to travel up to 90mph (114km/h) in sections, and the work was supposed to be completed by early 2015.

Summer recess

However, in a recent written statement, Edwina Hart said: "I shall be reviewing the processes and decision-making behind the rail infrastructure project to reduce north-south journey times and redouble the railway between Wrexham and Saltney.

"The Welsh government committed to this project in 2008 and contracted Network Rail to deliver it, but the project has been significantly delayed."

A Welsh government spokesman said a further statement would be made after the summer recess.

Wrexham councillor Mr Wynn, co-chair of the authority's employment, business and investment scrutiny committee, said the situation was "deeply worrying".

He added: "Seemingly, things are happening in south Wales, and yet one of the major infrastructure upgrades for north Wales seems to have been put in limbo.

"It's crucial for the town that we're able to connect with the north west of England as well as Cardiff.

'Up to council'

"We're hoping to bring a prison to Wrexham. It will rely on good public transport connections so it's vital this does go ahead."

Coun Wynn said it was "up to the council" to establish what the plans are and when the work will go ahead.

Cllr Bob Dutton, Wrexham's lead member for the environment, said: "I am very concerned by this delay and it is vital that the doubling of the line goes ahead as supported by the Mersey Dee Alliance and Taith."

Concerns over delays were raised by local residents last week, when First Minister Carwyn Jones appeared at The Stiwt in Rhosllanerchrugog to answer questions from the public.

During the meeting of the assembly's committee for the scrutiny of the First Minister, committee member Ann Jones, Vale of Clwyd AM, said Network Rail had been "difficult" over the re-doubling.

The meeting heard that dealing with Network Rail had "not been that easy" in the past.

Network Rail said: "It remains our ambition to deliver a bigger and better railway for Wales and we are committed to working with the Welsh government on north/south Wales improvements.

"The progress of the scheme has been affected by several changes, including to specified scope and outputs.

"We are now working hard on re-examining the options with an aim to deliver better value for money for funders and ultimately, taxpayers."

A spokeswoman said she believed the "difficult" comment referred to Network Rail's structure before an independent Wales route was created in November 2011.

She said the new structure helped the company improve value for money and respond quicker to stakeholders.

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