Rail industry unites to criticise scrapping of HS2 Golborne Link

Government to explore alternatives for HS2 in Scotland after removal of Golborne Link from HS2 Bill.

Three leading railway industry bodies have united to criticise the news that HS2’s Golborne link is to be scrapped, putting the future of high speed rail links to Scotland in doubt. 

The Department for Transport has announced its intention to remove the Golborne Link from the current HS2 Bill, with ministers claiming they will instead explore alternatives that deliver similar benefits within the £96bn envelope of the Integrated Rail Plan.  

The Golborne Link – a high speed rail link connecting HS2 to the West Coast Mainline – will, subject to parliamentary approval, be removed from the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill after its second reading following recommendations set out in last year’s Union Connectivity Review.

The independent Union Connectivity Review undertaken by Sir Peter Hendy claimed that the Golborne Link does not resolve all the current capacity constraints on the West Coast Main Line between Crewe and Preston.

In line with this review, ministers say the government has committed to exploring a number of alternatives that could deliver similar benefits within the framework of the Integrated Rail Plan – ranging from upgrading existing infrastructure to brand new high speed links.  

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “HS2 is a once-in-a-lifetime project that will transform travel across the entire UK as we know it and serve millions of people for hundreds of years to come and it’s absolutely vital that we get this right from the outset. Removing this link is about ensuring that we’ve left no stone unturned when it comes to working with our Scottish counterparts to find a solution that will best serve the great people of Scotland.” 

But three leading railway industry bodies - The Railway Industry Association, Rail Freight Group and High Speed Rail Group – have expressed their disappointment at the Department for Transport’s decision and are urging the government to clarify exactly how HS2 will connect with Scotland, and how the government plans to protect and deliver HS2’s benefits in full. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the three rail industry bodies said: “It is hugely disappointing to discover that, on a day when much political attention was focused elsewhere, the government confirmed that the Golborne Link is to be removed from the HS2 project. 

“Only six months ago, the Golborne Link was included in the Integrated Rail Plan, as well as the HS2 Phase 2b Bill. The Link has been provided for in the budget for HS2 and is needed to allow adequate capacity on the national rail network to fulfil its vital function of handling the nation’s longer distance movements of both passengers and freight. Without this connection, a bottleneck will be created north of Crewe on the West Coast Main Line, which in turn will negatively impact outcomes for passengers, decarbonisation and levelling up.

“With the HS2 Eastern Leg dropped, and the Golborne Link abandoned too, there will now be heightened uncertainty both for rail businesses working on the project and for the communities the line will serve. 

“Given the government has now decided that it does not wish to proceed with the Golborne Link, it is absolutely essential it confirms as quickly as possible how ministers intend to protect the benefits of HS2 investment and does so without delay. Such an important, strategic question of how HS2 services connect into Scotland cannot be left open or uncertain.”

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