The highly controversial £3bn HS2 'Golborne Link' will be scrapped by the government after confirmation from the Transport minister Andrew Stephenson, who confirmed the 13-mile stretch would be removed from the High-Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill after second reading.
In the letter Andrew Stephenson said:
“Ahead of the government’s response to the Union Connectivity Review, we can confirm the government will look again at alternatives which deliver similar benefits to Scotland as the Golborne link, so long as these deliver for the taxpayer within the £96 billion envelope allocated for the Integrated Rail Plan.
“We will look at the potential for these alternatives to bring benefits to passengers sooner, allowing improved Scotland services from Manchester and Manchester Airport, as well as from Birmingham and London. HS2 trains will continue to serve Wigan and Preston, as well as Lancaster, Cumbria, and Scotland.”
The link would have connected the Crewe to Manchester line to the west coast mainline, where construction was due to start in the early 2030s and was expected to open in the late 2030s or early 2040s as part of the second stage of HS2 services to Scotland. The track would have left the HS2 route between Crewe to Manchester, cut through Trafford before joining the West Coast Main Line south of Wigan.
In October 2020, the government established the independent Union Connectivity Review, led by the chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, "to consider how best to improve transport connectivity between the nations of the UK".
Sir Peter’s final report, in November 2021, set out that the Golborne Link "would not resolve all the rail capacity constraints on the WCML between Crewe and Preston".
He recommended that the government should reduce journey times and increase rail capacity between England and Scotland by upgrading the WCML north of Crewe and by doing more work on options for alternative northerly connections between HS2 and the WCML.