Government confirms HS2 Phase 2 routes

Government has confirmed the route for Phase 2b of HS2 to Manchester and Leeds, deciding on changes including confirmation that Sheffield will not get a new dedicated HS2 station. HS2 trains will serve Sheffield via the city's existing rail network. Other changes include altering the alignment of the approach to Manchester Piccadilly to reduce residential impacts. Changes have also been made to the route between Middlewich and Northwich to avoid the Cheshire salt caverns, plus HS2 Ltd has been asked to take forward proposals for a new HS2 junction to allow for a direct 30-minute connection between Leeds and Sheffield as part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme.

In November 2016, the majority of the proposed HS2 phase two route was unveiled and a new consultation was launched to address seven specific areas. Secretary of state for transport Chris Grayling has now decided on each of the proposed changes, confirming six of the seven measures, as follows:

  • Changing the alignment over a 26km length of route in the Middlewich-Northwich area of Cheshire, raising the route as it passes through the Cheshire salt caverns to avoid brining and gas storage infrastructure
  • Changing the alignment of the route on the approach to Manchester Piccadilly station to improve the operational efficiency of the station and avoid direct residential impacts and a primary school
  • The relocation of the Western Leg Rolling Stock Depot (RSD) from a site near Golborne to a site north of Crewe between the A530 Nantwich Road and the West Coast Main Line (WCML) near Wimboldsley.
  • Changing the route near East Midlands Airport, so the route follows the eastern side of the A42 more closely, avoids a tunnel under the airport, does not cross the A42, and reduces the impacts on some communities
  • Locating the route through Long Eaton on a high level viaduct through the town immediately adjacent to the existing low-level rail corridor
  • The re-alignment of the route between Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. The route in South Yorkshire will be the route consulted in 2016 which in part follows the M1 and M18, serves Sheffield City Centre via a spur from the HS2 line and includes provision for a northern junction allowing HS2 trains to run between Sheffield and Leeds

Grayling said he has decided not to proceed with proposed changes of the route at Measham, Leicestershire, which would have involved the relocation of the alignment to the east of the town, away from the A42.

Grayling said: "Britain's new railway line will bring huge economic benefits across the country and help ensure this government delivers on its promise to spread wealth beyond London and the South East. But as well as creating skilled jobs, apprenticeships and business opportunities, it will also mean real day-to-day improvements for people across the country.

"By building a whole new railway line for high-speed intercity connections, we will free up local services, meaning more comfort, more seats and more trains for passengers across the North and the Midlands.

"We will now press ahead with building the line, while continuing to ensure affected communities get appropriate support and are treated with fairness, compassion and respect."

David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd, added: "Today we have taken a huge step forward in connecting eight of our largest cities, freeing up space on our railways and building a catalyst for growth across the country.

"Once completed, 30 million people will be served by HS2 across over 25 stations, helping to change the economic geography of the country, and bring prosperity to the midlands, the north, and beyond."

The government originally set out plans for HS2 phase two in 2013. Since then it was decided to develop Phase two in two stages: Phase 2a - from the West Midlands to Crewe that was announced last year; and Phase 2b - from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands. A previously proposed HS2 connection to Sheffield's Meadowhall area was dropped following local objections and as part of measures introduced to reduce the cost of the overall £56bn project.

Phase 2a is due to open in 2027 and Phase 2b in 2033. The principal contracts worth around £6.6bn for construction of the 129 mile Phase One from Euston to Birmingham have also been awarded and a hybrid Bill for Phase 2a published.

Commenting on today's announcements, the chair of the National Inffrastructure Commission, Lord Adonis, said: “HS2 is one of the largest and most important infrastructure projects we are undertaking in this country. It is a huge step forward to have contracts in place to begin construction on the ground, and a second bill in the House to maintain momentum towards delivering a high-speed and high-capacity connection between London and the North of England. The publication of the finalised routes for the lines to Manchester and Leeds is also a major milestone.

“This was one of the 12 key infrastructure decisions we said government needed to make as a matter of urgency and so I’m pleased to see such strong progress.

“The announcement by the transport secretary means the industry can continue confidently with their plans to deliver this vital project, and communities can consider how best to make the most of this significant investment. I now look forward to seeing how this route will connect up with a High Speed 3 rail line in the future.”