Work can officially start on the first Northern leg of the UK’s high speed rail project after the proposals were enshrined in law on Thursday.
Local stakeholders including Cheshire East Council, the Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership and lobby group Transport for the North welcomed the granting of Royal Assent to the HS2 Phase 2a Hybrid Bill, which contains legislation governing the part of the network to be built between Birmingham and Crewe.
The Act of Parliament cements in law the Government’s commitment to this section of the route, following prior approval of the first phase of the project in 2017.
The Crewe leg is predicted to have a major regenerative impact on the North West, helping to fuel economic development and better connect the region.
Trevor Brocklebank, deputy chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said in a statement: “The first Northern extension of HS2 will have a catalytic impact on Cheshire’s economy and also help deliver the levelling-up agenda, allowing us to address areas of deprivation in our region.”
The LEP said there was no update as yet on its proposals for a cluster of mixed-use development around the Crewe HS2 rail station, to help create new jobs and boost economic growth.
However, he said: “I was very pleased to speak to HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson on a virtual roundtable, where I emphasised our strong proposals for an HS2 Growth Corridor – which would deliver 8,800 jobs, 30,000 homes and 6m sq ft of commercial space – from Crewe to Warrington.”
The granting of Royal Assent to the Phase 2b bill “is a landmark moment for the Cheshire and Warrington economy”, Brocklebank added. “The LEP is determined to ensure that this once-in-a-generation opportunity is maximised as a major pillar for growth in the region.”
The LEP estimates that more than 5,000 construction jobs will be created on Phase 2a – the first intercity railway being built in the North of England in more than a century. Construction of the first part of the HS2 route between the West Midlands and London is already underway.
Cllr Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council said: “This is a hugely important milestone in bringing high speed rail to Crewe. HS2 is a strategically important project and will drive increased business confidence to invest in Crewe – creating opportunities not only to enhance the town, but also the wider borough through the jobs, services and improved opportunities it can provide.
“We are committed to maximising the significant benefits the scheme will bring and it is more important than ever as we support our local economy to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Working with our strategic partners we are continuing to push forward with multiple projects to transform Crewe and the wider area and ensure it is ready for HS2’s arrival, including our proposals for Crewe Hub Station.”
Transport for the North said it was looking forward to the publication of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, which is expected to give clarity on whether proposals for additional HS2 routes to Manchester and Leeds will be progressed, and the Northern Powerhouse Rail network.
TfN’s Northern Powerhouse rail director Tim Wood said: “It has been a long time coming but HS2 has now been approved up to Crewe, which takes us to the doorstep of the North of England – this is brilliant news. The move will lock-in the creation of thousands of jobs in the years to come as we seek to build back better.
“It is essential now that the North gets certainty on the delivery of Phase 2b in full, on both sides of the Pennines, so that our communities are fully connected to the nation’s high-speed network.”
And Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Thursday: “HS2 is now a reality – heading North, creating jobs and building a brighter future for our country. This vital project is at the heart of the Government’s commitments to build back better from the pandemic, tackle the North-South divide and drive growth across the country.
“I look forward to seeing spades in the ground to get this section built and deliver the benefits of high-speed rail to the North as swiftly as possible.”