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HS2 Crewe link six years early – but phase 2 route pushed to autumn 2016

Chancellor George Osborne has rubber-stamped the proposals by HS2 Ltd chair Sir David Higgins to build a key section of the high-speed line early to benefit the north and Midlands.

The link between Birmingham and Crewe will be opened in 2027, six years earlier than its original schedule as part of phase 2, and only one year later than the main London-Birmingham link. It is being called 'phase 2a'. 

But the exact route for the rest of phase 2 will not now be published until autumn 2016, about two years later than originally expected when the route consultation finished in January 2014.

The suggestion for an earlier link between Birmingham and Crewe was first made last year in Higgins’ HS2 Plus report. Higgins said at the time that the Crewe link should be done as part of the phase 1 works “because the route between the two is smaller, cheaper and easier to complete within the timescale in connecting the north to the south”.

Crewe potential benefits resize 635844742787634044

Click the diagram to expand

Cllr Michael Jones, Conservative leader of Cheshire East Council, told the FT: “It is phenomenal. This is going to make Crewe the central hub it was 175 years ago and create lots of jobs.”

Higgins’ backing for a hub at Crewe was a disappointment for Stoke, which lobbied hard to get a station included in the plans.  

Osborne said today: “Bringing forward this part of the HS2 route by six years is a massive step in the right direction for the Northern Powerhouse where high-speed rail will play a big role in connecting up the entire region with the rest of the country.”

The transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said: “Bringing HS2 to Crewe ahead of time is a tremendous opportunity for the north to feel the benefits even sooner. We continue to make good progress on our plans for the rest of HS2 phase 2 serving Manchester, east Midlands, South Yorkshire and Leeds and will make a decision on the route in autumn 2016.”

The government has also published Higgins' report suggesting that Leeds should get a single integrated hub station – not a separate HS2 station south of the city centre as originally envisaged.

HS2’s funding envelope (in 2015 prices) now stands at £55.7bn, last week’s Spending Review announced.

The transport secretary has published a series of HS2 documents today, including a new command paper and an update to the strategic case. The papers are here.

(Photo, top: Library image of Sir David Higgins)


Stu   30/11/2015 at 20:21

Does this mean a new station for Crewe or a long over due revamp of the existing station ?

RTM   01/12/2015 at 11:12

Hi Stu, this is the info the DfT published yesterday: “Although Phase 2a works with the existing Crewe station, the scope for the station to accommodate future growth beyond this is inhibited by the current track layout, which was not designed for today’s operational demands nor those of the future. The complex crossing moves over other rail lines that some services have to make, limits capacity on the WCML, introduces risks for reliability, and constrains further growth. It is only with careful management of the timetable and signalling that the station is capable of delivering current outputs. In addition, there are significant levels of congestion on the local road network leading to the station. 6.10 Crewe’s role as a major rail hub presents a significant opportunity for the North West and wider regions. To realise this opportunity in full, we are looking at what infrastructure improvements in the Crewe area will be needed to accommodate increasing demand. … 6.15 After considering a long list of possible options, work is now focussed on options: within the area of, or close to, the existing station site, or at Basford, 2km south of the existing station. These locations offer different challenges and opportunities in terms of transport connectivity (both rail interchange and road access), ease of construction and disruption during build, environment and sustainability impacts, and support for wider development and regeneration.”

Roy Cartlidge   01/12/2015 at 17:32

moving it further south will only mean congestion on the link roads around the A500 corridor and surrounding settlements and the town of Crewe isolated from the rest of the rail network how will existing connections link up with HS2 from Chester and north wales and Irish traffic??

John   02/12/2015 at 13:28

This phase 2a stops 5 miles south of Crewe. All trains leave HS2 and run onto the existing classic tracks and splay out from the existing Crewe junction - well only the Liverpool, Manchester and Scottish trains. Stoke can be served by HS2 by running off HS2 at Crewe and running south east to Stoke which would still give excellent journey times. So, what is happening to Higgins' high-speed hub at Crewe? HS2 Ltd wants to run HS2 track to Wigan as it says there is capacity issues on the WCML north of Crewe. The WCML north of Crewe needs to be 4 track to Weaver junction to give Liverpool is own dedicated spur from Crewe as is currently the case with the Manchester trains. This will alleviate any capacity issues on the WCML north of Crewe. Then no HS2 track north of Crewe needs to be laid. The two big cities can have their high-speed rail runs-ins on the existing classic tracks with of course bottlenecks removed.

Geordie   03/12/2015 at 12:53

The above comment is spot on. There will really be no need of ANY HS2 track beyond Crewe. Manchester will get its fast service to Euston without the nonsense of billions of pounds worth of tunnelling, and there will be no need for a second Airport station. No need for captives at all. Billions saved.

Graham Nalty   04/12/2015 at 18:04

It is really not very sensible to place a railway station in the middle of nowhere and expect to make it a successful interchange. There is no population and hence no market for rail and people do not like to change trains. Stoke on Trent is a far better location for a station. It is a large city with a population of 400,000 and has a bigger market for rail travel than Crewe, despite the much better connectivity from Crewe in all directions. What people in the North are saying is that they want faster trains between the cities in the North rather than faster trains to London. Take the Stoke to Liverpool journey that takes typically an hour an a half between cities 45 miles apart - the fastest trains taking 79 minutes. This journey time could be reduced even now with direct through trains that do not involve a change at Crewe. Stoke to North Wales is just as slow due to the need to 'change at Crewe'. If we are going to spend money at Crewe surely it is more important to add a few grade separated junctions so trains from Stoke (some starting at Nottingham or Derby) can take passengers directly to Liverpool, Chester, North Wales or stations on the WCML (Preston or Glasgow) without the 'barrier to travel' that occurs when passengers have to 'change at Crewe'. The new 'hub' station will not eliminate 'change at Crewe', but will add further to journey times between cities that already too slow. The proposed hub station is likely to lose passengers to rail compared with having the hub at the existing Crewe station and even more compared to having the HS2 interchange at Stoke on Trent at the proposed new Etruria station.

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