At a recent Council meeting we called for more to be done to promote Warrington as a Major Economic Centre, expressing concern that the decision to scrap the northern part of HS2 would mean the town was bypassed.
The original prospectus for Northern Powerhouse Rail promised that "Together, Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 and the Trans Pennine Route Upgrade will define the North’s economic future for the rest of the century boosting jobs and growth." This designated Warrington as a Major Economic Centre but the cancellation of HS2 puts this prospect at risk as the connection to Manchester via Manchester Airport was largely dependent on HS2 track.
In the government’s new ‘Network North’ document, Warrington is barely mentioned apart from being at the end of a North Wales line. The future of the connection between Manchester and Liverpool is left in some doubt. The document states: "We will also invest £12 billion to better connect Manchester to Liverpool. This would allow the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail as previously planned, including high-speed lines. But we will work with local leaders to agree whether they wish to suggest other ways to achieve the objectives within that cost envelope."
There is a danger that ‘local leaders’ will be the elected metro mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool Region. They will have little interest in preserving Warrington as a Major Economic Centre. There is also a danger that the major advantage of Warrington being the crossing point of the West Coast Main Line and an improved east-west connection will be lost.
Cllr Mark Browne, who seconded the motion, added: We are asking for an urgent report outlining a strategy to retain Warrington as a Major Economic Centre in the North West. This report should update a previous study entitled Warrington Means Business, much of which has been superseded by recent developments. It should also state what steps will be taken to ensure that Northern Powerhouse Rail retains Bank Quay as a station or proposes an equally advantageous route through Warrington.
Since putting this motion forward, we have learnt that the Minister of State for Rail has visited the town and had positive discussions with the MP, local councillors and officers. This is welcomed and is a step in the right direction that hopefully will ensure there is investment to upgrade the station and boost growth and jobs in our town.