HARTFORD has been earmarked as a future rail hub as part of an ambitious plan for rail links in the north west and Wales.

The possibility of a new ‘seamless interchange’ between the West Coast Mainline (WCML) and Mid-Cheshire Line has been mooted, and would see the closure of Hartford and Greenbank stations.

Part of a £1 billion plan which would see links bolstered between Crewe, Manchester Airport, Warrington and Chester in a bid to maximise the benefits of HS2, the interchange would link the two lines and increase connectivity between Cheshire towns and surrounding links to the rest of the UK.

Although ‘a long way off’ due to land constraints and a lack of infrastructure, the project – complemented by a Gadbrook Park station on a reopened Middlewich passenger branch – could bring new opportunities for Northwich residents.

John Oates, chairman of the Mid Cheshire Rail Users’ Association (MCRUA), said: “There has been a discussion for a long time about having a station where the lines cross. That is just to the west of Hartford where they are building a load of houses.

“It’s one of those things that looks fine on paper or on a nice diagram, but when you actually go there the amount of work that would need to be put in to get it to work would be phenomenal.

“It’s a long way off, if it ever happens. When the housing and roads are in place, maybe, but it’s a long way off.

“It’s really good that this investment is being discussed. We need to keep it above the horizon and it has a lot of support, including from MPs.

“Despite being so poorly connected the economy in our area is the second best performing in the country. Just imagine what it could do if we had better transport systems – more employment opportunities, more people better off, more support for public services.”

Of the nine prospective rail services listed in the project, two would provide ‘key opportunities’ to create a ‘Mid Cheshire and WCML intersection station with seamless interchange’.

These are the Warrington to Stafford Service, via Hartford, Winsford and Crewe, and the Mid Cheshire service, linking Chester to Manchester as well as reopening the Middlewich Branch for passenger services down from Northwich to Sandbach.

The line is restricted to single-track operation, and is currently used only for freight services and as a bypass route for passenger trains when the WCML is closed.

The plans were launched at the House of Commons by the Growth Track 360 campaign – headed up by CWAC leader Cllr Samantha Dixon – with transport secretary Chris Grayling calling it a ‘timely reminder’ of Cheshire’s potential.

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.”

But campaign group Mid Cheshire Against HS2 says the benefits of connectivity in the north can be brought without HS2, which would provide faster links to London. Instead, the group backs Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Graham Dellow said: “This prospectus is assuming that HS2 goes ahead. Everybody from CEC down, and up, and sideways, has grand plans and there is no money for it – this is the issue.

“We are fairly relaxed about the whole thing, because there are just so many people wanting to piggyback off of HS2 when what is really needed in the north is better local connections.”