Transport Secretary confirms HS2 plan to accelerate route to Crewe

Patrick McLaughlin backs new plan to create “backbone” for the network to underpin Northern Powerhouse and appoints former CBI boss John Cridland as head of Transport for the North.


Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin has confirmed the plan to accelerate construction of the High Speed 2 route to Crewe by six years to open in 2027 as part of a plan to support growthi n the north west.

Powers to build the new route between Fradley in the West Midlands and Crewe, now known as ‘Phase 2a’ of the project, will be sought through a separate hybrid Bill due to be introduced to Parliament in 2017.

“We agree that we should realise the benefits of HS2 as soon as possible. We intend to accelerate Phase 2a so that it opens 6 years earlier than planned, in 2027,” Patrick McLaughlin

“In his reports, ‘HS2 plus’ (March 2014) and ‘Rebalancing Britain’ (October 2014), Sir David Higgins recommended that we seek to build the section of the route to Crewe more quickly to deliver further benefits to the north sooner,” said McLaughlin

“We agree that we should realise the benefits of HS2 as soon as possible. We intend to accelerate Phase 2a so that it opens 6 years earlier than planned, in 2027,” he added. “This will bring more capacity and faster HS2 services to the north-west of England, including Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester and Scotland much sooner than originally planned. Our plans will help to support growth and deliver jobs more quickly.”

McLaughlin said the decision underpinned the plan for transport investment to help deliver the Northern Powerhouse through HS2 and the Northern transport strategy.

Publishing a progress report on the Northern Transport Strategy, McLaughlin also confirmed former CBI director general John Cridland as the new independent Chair of the Transport for the North Partnership Board.

Cridland will work with chief executive, David Brown, to deliver the Northern Transport Strategy, working closely in partnership with Lord Adonis and the National Infrastructure Commission.

“Further work is needed on the remainder of the Phase Two route before a decision can be taken. I intend to make a decision in autumn 2016” Patrick McLaughlin

He added that following advice from the National Infrastructure Commission in March 2016, schemes such as Northern Powerhouse rail will have access to a brand new £300M national Transport Development Fund.

McLaughlin said that the route to Crewe would now be safeguarded and a consultation launched on a wider package of measures for owner-occupiers affected by the route. 

Government has also published the independent analysis by Ipsos MORI of all the responses to the 2013 Phase Two route consultation and the route decision for Phase 2a, McLaughlin said, took into account responses. 

“Further work is needed on the remainder of the Phase Two route before a decision can be taken,” he said. “I intend to make a decision in autumn 2016”

However he summarised thinking on the Phase tow scheme as follows: 

  • Leeds: We have now received Sir David Higgins’ report on Leeds Station — which is also published today. It recommends an integrated design for the HS2 station, while maintaining a southerly route into the city. I am minded to agree with Sir David’s proposal.
  • South Yorkshire: Sheffield Meadowhall was the government’s preferred station location in the Phase Two route consultation. The evidence continues to suggest that this is likely to be the best way of serving the wider South Yorkshire region and we are working with the National Infrastructure Commission and Transport for the North on the possible interfaces with Northern Powerhouse rail. However, we acknowledge there are arguments in favour of a city centre location and continue to examine relevant analysis.
  • East Midlands: Sir David Higgins has confirmed that HS2 Limited recommends a hub station should be located at Toton. Toton is also supported by the East Midlands local authorities who are united behind this proposed location. The government therefore continues to support Toton as the best location for an East Midlands Hub. Last week the Chancellor announced growth funding to allow the area to start its planning for HS2. Part of this will be released this year, and the remainder would be released when a decision is made.
  • Manchester: Manchester Piccadilly continues to look like the right location for HS2’s Manchester terminus. To maximise its potential to support economic growth in the region, it will be important to ensure effective co-ordination with the development of Northern Powerhouse rail to transform east-west links across the north of England. We are continuing our work through Transport for the North, and with the National Infrastructure Commission, to explore synergies and integration between the schemes, in order to develop the right rail infrastructure that delivers growth across the whole of the north of England.
  • We also remain of the view that a Manchester Airport station is likely to be the right option, subject to agreeing an appropriate third party funding contribution to the costs.
  • In 2014, Sir David Higgins recommended that HS2 serve a north-west hub station at Crewe. While I am not taking decisions on Crewe hub today, I do support the vision for a Crewe hub. Work is ongoing I intend to make further announcements in 2016, and any Crewe hub scheme will be subject to consultation. To support the work that the Northern Gateway Partnership is doing to develop growth and regeneration plans ahead of a decision I am releasing part of this funding this year.
  • I have asked HS2 Ltd to explore options for how we might best serve Stoke and Macclesfield, including through classic-compatible trains via Handsacre Junction. Handsacre Junction is part of Phase One and will allow HS2 trains to serve Stafford.
  • Scotland will benefit from reduced journey times as soon as Phase One opens (3 hours 56 minutes from London to Glasgow, compared with a typical journey time of 4 hours 31 minutes at present). Accelerating delivery of Phase 2a between the West Midlands and Crewe will further reduce the journey time from London to Glasgow to 3 hours 43 minutes. The full “Y” network will provide faster services from London to both Glasgow (3 hours 38 minutes) and Edinburgh (3 hours 39 minutes). The UK government and the Scottish government are working closely together to consider options to further reduce journey times. We hope to make a statement on next steps in the New Year.

Full detaisl of the announcement by Patrick McLaughlin canbe found here.

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The revised Option 2 proposal for the HS2 station at Leeds is a substantial improvement over the initial Leeds proposal. Perhaps the people of Birmingham should take note and push for a better integration of HS2's Curzon Street station with the existing West Midlands rail network. Introducing platforms on the classic lines immediately adjacent to Curzon Street's HS2 platforms would allow rail passengers to interchange directly between HS2 and the local rail network which is cannot be done with the existing proposal.
The HS2 team needs to avoid any emphasis on the improved travel times, frankly 35 minutes faster to Scotland is unimpressive. The message that needs to be driven home is the increase in capacity that will result and the consequential improvements to the East and West Coast Mainlines that follow on. This is network expansion, not faster point to point travel.