Government promises ‘independent and rigorous’ HS2 review

The fate of the multi-billion-pound high-speed rail project, and associated large-scale developments around Manchester and Crewe, will be decided by the autumn after the Government confirmed it has commissioned a review into “whether and how HS2 should proceed”.

Rumours of the review had been swirling ever since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July, and the Government has now confirmed Douglas Oakervee will pen a review into the future of the project, set to provide high-speed rail services between London, Birmingham, Crewe, Manchester, and Leeds.

The review will look into the benefits and impacts of HS2; its affordability and efficiency; its deliverability; and its scope and phasing, particularly in relationship to Northern Powerhouse Rail.

For the North West, several huge projects hinge on the delivery of the railway line, particularly in Crewe and Manchester.

The large-scale development of Crewe station owes much to the arrival of HS2; Cheshire East Council is proposing a major overhaul of the railway station and surrounding land to deliver up to 3.8m sq ft of commercial space along with 3,700 homes.

Plans here are already well advanced with the council launches two public consultations last month.

Artist Impression Of Crewe Railway Station Entrance From Weston Road

Visual of the proposed station entrance from Weston Road

The arrival of the route into Manchester would also encourage significant development. A new station is being planned in Hale Barns to serve Manchester Airport, taking in a plot of land off J6 of the M56.

Delivery of this station would necessitate the demolition of the existing Marriott Hotel off the J6 roundabout while a swathe of farmland off Shay Lane and Roaring Gate Lane are also to be built on under HS2’s initial plans.

Manchester City Council has also drawn up a strategic regeneration framework for the area around Piccadilly Station to prepare it for the arrival of HS2.

This includes a full overhaul of the railway station itself; close to 2.9m sq ft of office space, 261,000 sq ft of retail space, up to 5,000 apartments, and 250 hotel rooms. Much of the development is to be to the north of the station, in areas designated as East Village, Piccadilly North, Piccadilly Central, and Piccadilly Heights.

Tall buildings feature in the SRF at the arrival point of HS2, while the SRF also builds in the potential for an interchange between Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2.

Picc Escalators

A major overhaul of Piccadilly railway station and its surroundings also hinges on HS2’s arrival

Work is already under way on the southern sections of the high speed rail line although there are no spades in the ground yet for the northern section running from Crewe to Manchester.

While the Prime Minister has flagged concerns over HS2, he has been a vocal supporter of Northern Powerhouse Rail, and in late July signalled his support for the route between Manchester and Leeds.

Further details of the Government’s backing for NPR are expected as part of its Autumn Spending Review.

Following the announcement of the review into HS2, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

“That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.

“Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project.”

Oakervee added: “The Prime Minister has asked me to lead this important review into the HS2 programme. I am looking forward to working with my deputy, Lord Berkeley, to advise the government on how and whether to progress with HS2, based on all existing evidence.”

Reacting to the news of the review, Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “HS2 is a vital project to help rebalance the economy and make us more productive, alongside linked interventions including most notably Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“The Northern Powerhouse Partnership will be engaging positively with the review to make the case for why HS2 is so necessary, for cities like Leeds and Manchester, but also for those like Newcastle, Preston and Glasgow, which all benefit from significantly better connections under an integrated plan for a new railway to take city to city traffic off our largely Victorian network which we need for commuters and freight.”

Harworth Group’s head of communications and investor relations Iain Thompson said: “Whilst extra government attention on directing the efficacy of HS2 is welcomed, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that extra rail capacity is urgently required in the UK to support growth and to take pressure off the road network.

“We hope that the review focuses its efforts on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘whether’, as any kind of pause or cancellation would be a retrograde step.”

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