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Stoke to keep fighting for HS2 North West hub

Stoke-on-Trent will keep fighting to bring a high speed rail station to the city despite Sir David Higgins recommending Crewe should be the location for the proposed north west hub. 

The city council leader, Cllr Mohammed Pervez, still hopes the local authority can influence the government to choose Stoke instead. 

“The government has still to make a decision but if they go with Sir David’s recommendations then we will look at every route open to us. There is no mechanism in place to support those areas which lose out as a result,” he said. 

“Stoke-on-Trent is undergoing a major economic renaissance and has enormous future growth potential. HS2 would supercharge that growth. We will continue talk through the issues and the opportunities with government and other organisations to ensure that this wonderful city and its people are not penalised. One thing is sure, they won’t be able to ignore Stoke-on-Trent.” 

The comment comes after Sir David published his latest report – Rebalancing Britain: From HS2 towards a national transport strategy – which recommended Crewe as the location because it is the “best way to serve not just the local region, but also provide services into the rest of the north west, north Wales and Merseyside”. 

The HS2 chair also believes the delivery of Crewe should be accelerated to 2027 instead of 2033 so that the north, and Scotland, begin to feel the benefit of HS2 as early as possible. 

Sir David stated: “The choice of location for the north west hub is not just vital, it also reflects a debate about how HS2 can best serve the cities and regions outside Manchester and Leeds. The essential question is whether the decision should be based on the needs of particular locations or of the wider region. The choice between basing the North West hub in Stoke-on-Trent or Crewe reflects that tension.” 

 368 North West Hub Connections

He added that Stoke-on-Trent continues to mount a strong case and clearly, it is easy to understand why it would like an HS2 station. But the decision is about more than the merits of a particular destination, however strong those are. 

When discussing the reasoning behind his decision, Sir David noted that Crewe offers greater connectivity, whereas Stoke, in contrast, offers more limited connectivity at a higher cost and has significant geological and engineering difficulties. 

In what seemed an effort to diffuse some of the tension, Sir David’s report added that in order to recognise the desire of many stakeholders in the region to capture the journey time and connectivity benefits HS2 provides, he recommended that the government asks HS2 to look at the possibility of running classic compatible high speed services to Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield and Stockport to Manchester via the Handsacre link from HS2 to the West Coast Main Line. 

Staffordshire County Council, which is opposed to the national transport scheme, said it will work with the government, HS2 Ltd and Cheshire East Council to get the best deal for the county in terms of mitigation, compensation and economic benefits from a HS2-compatible service via Stafford. 

Cllr Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, said confirmation of the proposed route brought greater “clarity” and would allow the county council to build on the results it has achieved in mitigating the impact of phase 1, where it has succeeded in lowering 7km of the route. 

“From the outset we decided as a county council to help our communities' voices to be heard, to minimise any environmental impact and capture the maximum economic advantage for the whole of Staffordshire and we will be bringing our experience and expertise in influencing the design of phase 1 to help communities in phase 2,” he said. 

“With proposals to accelerate the route via Crewe it is more vital than ever that the voice of the whole of Staffordshire is heard so we can get the best result in terms of reducing the impact, winning meaningful compensation and ensuring Staffordshire benefits from HS2 compatible trains to the north west.” 

High speed transport specialist Dr Alan James, project director of HS2: The Stoke Route, has written an article for the next edition of RTM explaining the alternative route in detail. He told us: “Despite the many advantages claimed by proponents of the Stoke Route, Sir David Higgins appears intent on sticking to his preference for a new ‘super-hub’ station at Crewe. Stoke-on-Trent City Council are insisting a full, fair and transparent competitive appraisal of the relative merits of Sir David’s Crewe scheme and the Stoke Route, using metrics which fully take into account the strategic economic benefits of the proposed routes, in addition to their relative costs and environmental impacts.” 

He also says: “The Stoke Route provides a 1h20m London to Manchester journey in 2026, at a capital cost at least £2bn lower than any scheme that takes HS2 through Crewe, with all the costs, complexity and risk of disruption that entails. Journey times via Crewe would also be slower, at around 1h34m, and the proposed new Basford Parkway station would have to be built, and the existing station demolished, both whilst WCML remains live in the immediate vicinity. Crewe has the potential to make the WCML Upgrade disruption at Rugby (which prevented Virgin running a full timetable for over two years and cost the taxpayer £440m in TOC compensation) look like a stroll in the park.” 

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