Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, has today confirmed the preferred route for the North West stretch of HS2, the high-speed rail network he said “will become the backbone of our national rail network” as the government reaffirmed its commitment to the project.
The western section of the Y-shaped improvement programme will see trains stop at Crewe and Manchester Airport on their way to a new station adjacent to Manchester Piccadilly, as proposed alternatives such as the “Stoke Connector” plan were dismissed.
HS2 services will also be run on the old network in connecting services to Liverpool and the existing West Coast mainline, allowing HS2 services to continue north to Scotland.
The government last year confirmed that the section between the West Midlands and Crewe will be accelerated so it is operational from 2027. Completion on the full network is still scheduled for 2033.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority estimates that reducing travel times and increasing connectivity will bring up to 180,000 new jobs to the region by 2040 and add £1.3bn to Manchester’s GVA.
Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: “Today’s announcement is welcome confirmation that Greater Manchester will play a key role in HS2 and become a hub for rail improvements that will help support a sound economic future for the whole of the North through Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“This reinforces the confidence in the region’s economic potential. These infrastructure improvements are the tools we need to unlock our talent strategy.”
Some refinements to the plans have already been proposed: the moving of the rolling stock depot from Golborne near Wigan to a site just north of Crewe; the alignment of the approach to Manchester Piccadilly so that it runs to the east of West Gorton; and the moving of the route in the Middlewich/Northwich area in Cheshire. Decisions will be made in 2017 on these proposals.
It has also been confirmed that the proposed Crewe Hub station – a project additional to the core HS2 scheme and beyond its budget – should be located at the existing station, rather than at the alternative Basford Hall site.
In its affirmed next steps for the programme, government said that a hybrid bill for the development of phase 2a – the Midlands to Crewe leg – should be deposited by the end of next year.
While development of the Manchester Airport station remains subject to agreeing a local funding contribution, the government said that it continues to work with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester Airports Group and others towards achieving this.
It had already been confirmed that each Manchester station and Crewe would receive £625,000 in HS2 Growth Strategy funding, and today’s announcement confirmed that a further £625,000 would be made available for each location.