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I am very concerned about the cost and the amount of time it takes my constituents in Weaver Vale to get into Manchester and Liverpool. For example, it can take as long to commute to Manchester on the line from Chester as it did when the Victorians built it 150 years ago. We have to invest in those lines and in the rolling stock and the stations.
Last year, work began on the Mersey gateway project. For those who do not know what it is, it is a project that will deliver a magnificent new six-lane bridge over the Mersey estuary, linking Runcorn and Widnes. It also connects the M56 with the deep-water port in the great port of Liverpool and will generate an estimated £62 million in added value to the area by 2030, as well as providing much needed relief from the congestion on the ageing Silver Jubilee bridge, making life a bit easier for the constituents of Weaver Vale and Halton. The fact that the project is now under way is a testament to this Government’s commitment to Runcorn, Cheshire and Weaver Vale and to the north-west region as a whole.
Further to that, owing to the £10 million upgrade announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor last year, the Halton curve is now going to be reinstated. The scheme has a clear, positive business case and would reinstate and re-signal a section of railway between Frodsham and Runcorn, allowing trains to travel from Frodsham, Helsby and Halton to Liverpool and John Lennon airport, as well as into Chester and onwards to north Wales, as my right hon. Friend Mr Jones mentioned earlier. To link those projects we need the modern, high-speed line that High Speed 2 will deliver. The benefits of HS2 go far beyond the new line itself. I know I have said this over many years, but it is vital to remember that it will also free up capacity on existing commuter lines, bringing about an improved service for millions of commuters. It will also free up capacity for rail freight, which will help to facilitate the rebalancing of our economy away from the City of London and financial services, towards more northern manufacturing bases, now flourishing under this Government.
As for attracting private sector funding, the regional growth fund has seen phenomenal success in attracting investment into SMEs and job-creating initiatives. For every £1 invested in the regional growth fund, the private sector has matched it with a further £5.50, with investments in manufacturing topping over £1.1 billion. Over the next two years, the fund is being expanded further still, potentially unlocking a further £1.5 billion of private sector investment in job-creating projects. That is why unemployment in Weaver Vale has been reduced by 60% in the last five years. On top of that, enterprise zones, such as Sci-Tech Daresbury in my constituency, have been central to the success of this Government’s economic reforms and led the way in reshaping and rebalancing the economy. Sci-Tech Daresbury works with great universities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster. Alongside SMEs, IBM will be signing a new contract to work with the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which can only mean good news for future jobs, growth and wealth creation.
Finally, let me say that, collectively, the enterprise zones, capital investment in the Mersey gateway, the northern hub and High Speed 2, as well as the reinstatement of the Halton curve, are all key to encouraging growth throughout Cheshire and the north-west. This is a debate about how we see Britain’s future. Britain was once described as the workshop of the world, and I think it can be again. Weaver Vale is that workshop—a great place to live, work, invest and grow a business.