A STRATEGY calling for better rail services across Cheshire has been hailed as a 'timely reminder' of the county's potential by the transport secretary.

At an event in the House of Commons last Monday, Chris Grayling welcomed the launch of the West and Wales Strategic Rail Prospectus – which champions Warrington as a ‘crucial interchange’ for the region.

He said: “As somebody who used to be a Cheshire resident, and was a Cheshire parliamentary candidate, I’m well aware of the importance of the region and the inter-linkages with North Wales and the north west.

“We’ve got to make sure that HS2 interacts with different lines in the north. It is absolutely of paramount importance that the connectivity is there.

“In a whole variety of different ways, [HS2] is going to provide a transformational experience along the existing routes and connecting onto existing routes.”

The prospectus, developed by the Growth Track 360 campaign, calls on the Government and its rail partners to support four hubs in Crewe, Chester, Warrington and Manchester Airport.

It calls for improvements to connectivity on nine key routes – including reopening the Middlewich passenger line, connecting Warrington to Winsford, and developing the Manchester Airport western link.

Christine Gaskell, chairman of Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, told guests at the launch the need for better links to the Crewe HS2 hub is ‘the earliest priority’.

She said that the region has the second-fastest rate of growth in the UK – and insists it is ‘ready to grasp the opportunities offered by HS2’.

“She said: “The proposals in this prospectus set out how we can truly spread the benefits of HS2 to over two million people. They are ambitious and comprehensive.

“HS2 is a once in a generation event. But if we do not deliver the right hub now, we’ll not only throw away the growth HS2 offers but we will also end up trying to retro-fit solutions at a later date.”

The prospectus claims it could lead to the creation of 300,000 jobs, cut congestion on Cheshire’s roads, and help the region become 20 per cent more productive per resident than the UK average.

However, James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, has hit out at the potential costs of HS2.

He said: "HS2 is the biggest single waste of money that successive governments of all parties have committed to in decades – and that's saying something.

"The idea that spending what could amount to £100 billion to help people get to London more quickly is a crucial and worthwhile investment for the north-west is as fanciful as it is mendacious.

"Instead, branch and regional lines could be massively upgraded at a fraction of the cost, whilst still leaving plenty of taxpayers' money in their pockets."