HS2 impression

UK: A vote in parliament on the evening of May 21 brought a formal end to work on the Crewe to Manchester leg of HS2. In its place work will progress on a new line between Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly as part of the £17bn Northern Powerhouse Rail route between Liverpool and Manchester via Warrington.

In a vote passed by 323 votes to seven, the House of Commons instructed the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill Select Committee to leave out of ‘provision relating to a railway between a junction with Phase 2a of High Speed 2 south of Crewe in Cheshire and a point in the vicinity of the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire’ and to instead to treat the Bill as ’the provision of a high speed railway between a point in the vicinity of the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire and Manchester Piccadilly station’.

This is the section usually referred to as High Legh to Manchester, which starts to the west of Manchester Airport and is the point where NPR would have joined HS2.

The vote also requires the select committee to cease any work on the railway between Hoo Green in Cheshire and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Bamfurlong, south of Wigan. This would have formed the connection from HS2 into the West Coast Main Line running north towards Scotland.

A small number of MPs who have always been opposed to HS2 expressed concern that this left open the possibility that the northern part of HS2 could be resurrected at a future point; Rail Minister Huw Merriman told the house the government has ’been clear — others may not agree with us — that we are not moving forward with phases 2a or 2b of HS2’.

Merriman also said that proposals for an underground station at Manchester ’are being assessed, so the proposal is on the table to discuss and look at’.

Asked whether the scrapping of the entire Bill rather than amending it would not be a better option, Merriman stated ’my advice is that it would take an extra five years to start this process all over again, as opposed to two weeks to repurpose the Committee, so if we want to see Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered, it makes sense to follow this mechanism’.

The decision was welcomed by the metro mayors of Liverpool and Manchester on May 22 when they launched a Liverpool – Manchester Rail Board.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham also remains committed to the delivery of additional capacity via a new route between the West Midlands and Manchester and to continue with the work he had started with former West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

Talking to Rail Business UK on May 22, Burnham said he would be meeting new West Midlands Mayor Richard Parker later that day to discuss this. ‘It absolutely has to be part of the overall solution and whatever we decide here as a board, it will have to fit with a solution for north-south capacity to connect with HS2 at Handsacre’, said Burnham.

‘That question does not go off the table; I pay tribute to Andy Street for what he did to keep that whole issue alive, he did a great service to the country indeed in keeping that question alive and we have to be cognisant of whatever we want to do [with NPR] fitting in with that. It’s High Legh to Handsacre that is the missing piece in this jigsaw.’

Burnham also noted that any planning for the expanded station at Manchester Piccadilly should be based on the assumption that a new line from Handsacre will be constructed.

‘High Legh is part of the route alignment and there has to be a solution, whatever we build at Piccadilly, that has to take the trains that would come up from Handsacre. The West Coast Main Line can’t do it; that has to be in our minds as we do this, and it will be.’