The closure of the Brook Lane railway bridge – in fact its complete demolition and forthcoming replacement – is a complete pain. Not only for local residents, but also for any motorist driving round the city’s congested roads and having to use the diversions.
But this work needed to be done and it was pretty much an emergency job once engineers had established the poor state of the bridge structure. Add to that the closure of the Merseyrail tunnels into Liverpool and it is a pretty miserable time all round for travellers.
In fact I want to see much more work on developing our railways. Last week I invited the Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, to come to Chester to see the work that needs to be done on our regional railway system.
A former constituent emailed me to say she has had to move house to Manchester, where her job is, because the trains to get there are so unreliable. And it works both ways: two of our biggest local employers have told me they struggle to get new workers with the right skills because it is so hard to get to Chester from Manchester.
Local MPs, business leaders and councils in the west Cheshire and North Wales region have grouped together to present a joint regional strategy for rail, called Growth Track 360. It is a comprehensive plan to develop our railway network, with Chester as the hub, and we have been presenting it to ministers to get their agreement – hence my invitation to Andrew Jones.
We want to see the electrification of the line from Crewe through to North Wales and the electrification of the line to Warrington and Manchester, because electrification gives faster and more efficient train services. And we want an upgrade of the mid-Cheshire line to Northwich and Manchester, including a direct link to Manchester Airport.
It is an ambitious project, but I want to be ambitious for Chester. Although some work is a few years away yet, there is plenty to be getting on with. We’re looking at improvements to Chester station and other preliminary work such as raising Hoole Road railway bridge so you can get electric trains underneath. This would have the added bonus of making the new bridge safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
So I look forward to the Minister’s visit where he can meet fellow MPs, the Leader of the Council and local business leaders to see what we are proposing. But I did warn him to come by train: I don’t want him getting stuck in a jam on the M56!