To consider a report of Merseytravel providing an update on the Long Term Rail Strategy.
Tony Killen, Rail Development Advisor (Stations) provided the Committee with an update on the Long Term Rail Strategy that was originally published in 2004.
The arrival of the first Rolling Stock train was announced alongside other improvements like new depots and apprenticeships as part of the Rolling Stock Programme.
The presentation focused on accessibility as well as the aesthetic of the new trains which were bright and airy to ensure they were welcoming to the public.
It was noted that the new train was the first to arrive in the city region with a rolling programme for the rest of the trains to be brought into service once they were tested and the staff were trained. There was also power upgrades, signalling and platform lengthening to be undertaken with Network Rail
Further to the Rolling Stock Programme, work had been undertaken on Halton Curve to provide regular services as well as the rebuilding of Newton-le-Willows station. A station had also been opened at Maghull North and car parking facilities were also improving in the city region to encourage people onto public transport using park and ride. Six stations had been identified as suitable for car park extensions.
A key development identified in the report was the current plans for Liverpool Central Station. The station was being expanded to increase capacity as it was the hub of the Merseyrail Network and it was hoped that the network could reach out to Skelmersdale, Preston and Wrexham.
The report identified potential new stations, particularly the prospect of a station in the Baltic Triangle. The LCRCA was also committed to making stations more accessible using Access for All funding. A study was being developed on how the public can access John Lennon Airport and how freight moves on the rail network.
Looking toward the future, Tony Killen reported that the Liverpool city region needed to remain plugged into the HS2 network and take part in the Northern Power House cross-country improvements from Newcastle to the east coast.
Councillor Williams highlighted accessibility as a serious issue for the travelling public and commended the new trains as a significant improvement for people with disabilities wishing to travel around the city region. The councillors thanked previous members of the Transport Committee for their work on the interior of the new trains and their focus on accessibility. The Chair added that the new layout of the trains allowed for passengers in wheelchairs to travel together side by side which was not possible on the current network. Councillor Nicholas praised the innovative accessibility of the new rolling stock saying that it would be life changing for disabled people across the city region.
Councillor Friel supported the schemes in the Long Term Rail Strategy and commended the Rail team and the Rolling Stock team on their hard work. He reported that Central Station had one of the heaviest footfalls on a platform outside of London and would benefit from the expansion outlined in the Strategy.
Councillor Stockton queried how popular Halton Curve station was since it had been reinstated and Tony Killen endeavoured to provide him with that information, noting that when works were being completed on the Chester Line it had worked well as a station and provided extra connectivity.
The Committee discussed the importance of accessibility improvements to Railway Stations including installing drop curbs and maintaining lifts. Tony Killen advised that works were being undertaken on Prescot Station and that further design work was being prepared for five other stations in case further funding became available.
Councillor Jones requested further information about the Skelmersdale link and was assured that Merseytravel were currently making a contribution to the Lancashire County Council Grip 3 Study. The study would provide preferred options that could then be costed. The Chair reiterated that the next station to be developed by the LCRCA would be Headbolt Lane which would take the Merseyrail network beyond Kirkby.
The Chair noted that the Long Term Rail Strategy was due to be delivered over 30 years and that the progress that had been made so far was phenomenal.
RESOLVED - That the report be noted and the implementation of the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy be supported.