To ask the Secretary of State for Transport
(1) what assessment he has made of the economic effects of the electrification of the Wrexham-Bidston railway line;
(2) if he will make a statement on the electrification of the Wrexham-Bidston railway line;
(3) what discussions he has held with (a) local authorities and (b) local transport authorities regarding the electrification of the Wrexham-Bidston railway line;
(4) what discussions he has held with counterparts in the Welsh Assembly Government regarding the electrification of the Wrexham-Bidston railway line;
(5) what representations he has received regarding the electrification of the Wrexham-Bidston railway line.
We are committed to working with the Welsh Assembly Government and other partners on the promotion and development of cross-border transport links. Improving connectivity to major employment centres in North East Wales and Cheshire is one of the rail options being evaluated in high level terms by the Wales Rail Planning Assessment. The consortium of north Wales transport authorities has been consulted during work on the Assessment, which is a joint planning study for the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department for Transport.
I recognise that there is considerable support in North West England and in Wales for improvements to the Wrexham-Bidston line. I welcome the co-operation that is taking place between Merseytravel passenger transport executive, English and Welsh transport authorities and the Welsh Assembly Government to examine potential improvements, including electrification. Merseytravel and the Welsh Assembly Government, working with partners, have jointly commissioned Network Rail to undertake a feasibility study of electrification of the line.
I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues and the Assembly Minister on transport matters affecting Wales. Department for Transport officials are keeping in close touch with officials from the Welsh Assembly Government and Merseytravel about the electrification study but it would be premature to speculate on any conclusions.
Once the outcome of studies is known, and subject to available funding and discussions with interested parties, Merseytravel PTE will consider whether a scheme is suitable to promote for major scheme funding as part of the second Local Transport Plan for Merseyside covering the period 2006-11. The Department for Transport and the Government Office for the North West have regular meetings with Merseytravel and local authorities to discuss implementation of Local Transport Plans.
A decision to proceed with electrification would be subject to producing a business case with Network Rail and the rail industry, and securing the necessary funding. It would be necessary to show that sufficient extra passenger numbers would be likely to use the electrified service to make it a value for money option. It would be for the authorities in the North West Region to justify such expenditure against other priorities and to secure this via their allocated regional funding.