HS2 Phase 2a map

UK: The HS2 Phase 2a: High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill obtained Royal Assent on February 11, granting legal powers for the construction and operation of the 58 km section of high speed line between Fradley near Lichfield and Crewe.

Project promoter HS2 Ltd can now start environmental works along the route of Phase 2a, with construction expected to begin by 2024.

HS2 Ltd said the opening of Phase 2a would be ‘aligned with the London – Birmingham route’; passenger services between Old Oak Common in West London and Birmingham Curzon Street are expected to start around 2029-33.

Landmark moment

‘Today is a landmark moment in our infrastructure revolution’, said Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. ‘HS2 is the most significant expansion to our national railways in a generation – transforming connectivity between our towns and cities and vastly increasing the capacity of our rail network. By proceeding full steam ahead, we are delivering on our commitment to unite and level up the country.’

HS2 Birmingham Curzon Street station with trains

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said ‘whatever your view of this project, HS2 is now a reality – heading north, creating jobs and building a brighter future for our country’.

He added ‘I look forward to seeing spades in the ground to get this section built and deliver the benefits of high-speed rail to the north as swiftly as possible.’

Transforming the rail network

Railway Industry Association CEO Darren Caplan said royal assent was ‘great news, not just of course for the railway industry but also for the UK, its long term connectivity and economy.’

HS2 UK master_route map

He said it was ‘another step towards transforming the rail network, unleashing jobs, investment and economic growth around the country at such an important time, whilst ensuring we have capacity for the future.’

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said ‘HS2 will be a key anchor of the region’s recovery plans, with our latest research suggesting the knock-on effect of HS2 could eventually generate 175 000 jobs and more than £20bn of investment. These are extraordinary numbers, which shows just how critical it was to win the argument for HS2.’

Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect, said ‘today’s historic milestone will be music to the ears of businesses, investors and travellers alike. It’s heartening to see progress being made; government must now work to ensure this momentum is maintained and that construction is started on the Birmingham to Crewe leg as soon as possible.’

Deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, Councillor Craig Browne, said HS2 ‘is a strategically important project and will drive increased business confidence to invest in Crewe, creating opportunities to not only enhance the town, but also the wider borough, through the jobs, services and improved opportunities it can provide.’

MP for Crewe & Nantwich Dr Kieran Mullan said ‘this reaffirms Crewe’s status at the heart of the rail network, and just as we were a crucial part of the previous rail revolution, HS2 will cement our place as a vital part of the next.’

Councillor Louise Gittins who chairs the Growth Track 360 group of local authorities from North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West & Chester said ‘HS2 is a transformational project for the UK, but it is essential that it is configured to bring benefits well beyond its core route by facilitating through services running onto existing railway lines serving Cheshire and North Wales.’

Calls to get on with the eastern leg

Describing HS2 as providing ‘a national transport spine for the country’, High Speed Rail Group called on the government to give the go-ahead for the Phase 2b eastern leg to the East Midlands and Yorkshire. RIA also emphasised the need to ‘get on with the eastern leg’, which it said would ‘deliver the full network and the maximum benefits which the entire HS2 scheme provides.’

The Department for Transport said the government would publish its integrated rail plan ‘early this year’ outlining how HS2 can work with existing rail plans and the Northern Powerhouse Rail project ‘to deliver the benefits of HS2 to the East Midlands, Yorkshire and beyond’.

Tim Wood, Northern Powerhouse Rail Director at Transport for the North, said ‘it is essential now that the north gets certainty on the delivery of Phase 2b in full, on both sides of the Pennines, so that our communities are fully connected to the nation’s high-speed network’.

Wood said ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 are two parts of a whole, and both are fundamental to the transformative change we need to release the North’s economic potential and cut carbon emissions.’