UK: A further round of public consultation on the planned route of High Speed 2 opened on October 7, covering the Phase 2b Western Leg from Crewe to Manchester.
Construction of the initial section of the high speed line between London and the West Midlands is underway, whilst parliamentary approval for the short Phase 2a extension from the Lichfield area to Crewe is expected in the coming months, enabling these stages to open by 2027-30.
Integrated Rail Plan
Phase 2b covers a western leg serving Manchester and connections to the West Coast Main Line south of Wigan, as well as an eastern branch running through the East Midlands to Leeds and a junction with the East Coast Main Line near York.
The government agreed in February to proceed with the full 540 km, Y-shaped network, following publication of the Oakervee Review into the HS2 programme, its progress to date and its costs and benefits.
At that point, the government made clear that it intended to integrate Phase 2b much more closely into embryonic plans for new and enhanced links running east-west across northern England, known as Northern Powerhouse Rail. An Integrated Rail Plan outlining how HS2 Phase 2b and NPR are to be taken forward is due to be issued by the end of this year.
The Manchester – Crewe route consultation, which is open to the public until December, reflects the aims of this plan, covering a series of proposed design refinements. According to project promoter HS2 Ltd, these show how the route ‘is progressing to fully integrate with plans for NPR and the wider transport network’.
The consultation focuses on four potential modifications to the current design of the western leg. These relate to a proposed rolling stock depot at Crewe, construction of a new Crewe Northern Connection, and expansion of the planned high speed stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly.
Among the most significant aspects is the Crewe Northern Connection, which would provide a grade-separated link between HS2 and the WCML north of the town.
Intended to facilitate a wholesale redevelopment of the station and related junctions under the Crewe Hub vision, CNC would enable up to seven high speed trains per hour per direction to serve the town.
In addition, early plans for a new line between Hoo Green and Liverpool under NPR could now include a junction with HS2. This would enable London – Liverpool services to remain on dedicated infrastructure, rather than sharing the existing two-track section of the WCML between Crewe, Weaver Junction and Runcorn, which is heavily used by freight trains.
The consultation also seeks public views on a proposed expansion of the planned high speed station at Manchester Piccadilly. This would:
• provide two additional platforms (from four to six) to allow the future use of HS2 infrastructure as part of NPR;
• relocate the station’s Metrolink light rail stop beneath the HS2/NPR station and make provision for a second Metrolink stop;
• make passive provision for a junction that would be required for a future connection to Leeds as part of NPR.
Under the revised plans, the high speed station would be built at grade alongside the existing Piccadilly terminal platforms. Local policymakers in northern England have been campaigning for the station to have deep-level through platforms to facilitate east-west connectivity, and the consultation document acknowledges that the proposals for Piccadilly could be further revised once the Integrated Rail Plan is published.
Eastern leg concerns
Opening of the Crewe – Manchester consultation has led to concerns that this section of HS2 is being taken forward ahead of the eastern leg serving the East Midlands, Leeds and the northeast.
‘It’s good to see continued progress being made on HS2’s western leg’, commented Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect, which represents local authorities across central England. ‘However, it’s equally important that we progress plans for the eastern leg of Phase 2b. Midlands Connect will continue to work with government ahead of the final publication of its Integrated Rail Plan at the end of the year. It’s essential that once this happens, similarly ambitious steps are taken to move the design and progress of the eastern leg forward, so that the communities of the East Midlands are not left behind.’
‘Engaging with communities is central to delivering HS2 and NPR and we’re keen to hear from residents and business across Cheshire about the proposed design changes to the rolling stock depot at Crewe and the new Crewe Northern Connection’, explained Minister for HS2 Andrew Stephenson. ‘Responses to this consultation will be invaluable as we accelerate preparations for the western leg of HS2 Phase 2b as part of our overall commitment to improving connectivity to the north as quickly as we can.’
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