The next Intercity West Coast rail franchise (ICWC) must help unlock the potential of North Wales, Economy Secretary, Ken Skates has said today.
The comments come following the Welsh Government’s response to the recent consultation on the new franchise, set to be renewed by the UK Government in April 2018. The response made clear that in order for North Wales and the North of England to be better connected, the franchise’s offering must respond to the needs of businesses and communities across the regions.
The Economy and Infrastructure Secretary said:
“The importance of an effective, well integrated public transport system which links people with job opportunities on both sides of the Wales-England border is clear.
“The ICWC franchise is vital to rail users in North Wales. It operates the only direct service to London, and provides key connections at Crewe and Chester.
It also provides access to North Wales’ strong manufacturing base, the three enterprise zones and the upcoming Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Power Station - not to mention the thriving mid and north Wales tourism industry, which is of significant economic importance to the area.
“In our response to this consultation, we have stressed that North Wales needs and expects an hourly service to London – making return day travel in both directions, and the growth that stems from that, a reality.
“I have made it clear to the Department for Transport that, by working together alongside local tourism bodies and businesses, we can further support strong growth in the region’s business and leisure markets. Connectivity is key for our businesses, our jobs and our communities. Improvements to the ICWC franchise services, in conjunction with the new Wales and Borders franchise, presents a fantastic opportunity to help unlock the undoubted economic potential of the area.”
The ICWC franchise is currently operated by Virgin Trains, and primarily runs long distance, high speed services on the west coast between London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and North Wales.