The preferred route for Phase Two of HS2 from Crewe and the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds has been presented by the UK government.
Today’s announcement, though not throwing up any major surprises, is an important step for the project as it begins the process of safeguarding the route from future development.
The western leg of the high-speed railway will extend north from Crewe to Manchester Airport through to a new station next to Manchester Piccadilly station.
The route will include a connection to Liverpool and to the West Coast Main Line allowing the compatible fleet to travel up to Scotland.
The government has also confirmed that the eastern leg will include new stations in Toton, Sheffield and Leeds – although the location of the Sheffield station is still to be confirmed.
Several other refinements are still being considered, including going around East Midlands Airport instead of tunnelling under it and moving the site of a new depot at Golborne to a site north of Crewe.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day. They represent the greatest upgrade to our railway in living memory.”
In a separate announcement, HS2 announced the three successful which will deliver the enabling works for Phase One of the route from London to Birmingham.
The £900 million contracts have been split into three regions. Area South was awarded to Costain and Skanska, Area Central to Morgan Sindall, BAM Nuttall and Ferrovial Agroman, and Area North to Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons.
Work on Phase One of the route is expected to be completed by 2026. Phase 2a, from the West Midlands to Crewe, will follow in 2027 and Phase 2b, to Manchester and Leeds, will open in 2033.
James MacColl, head of campaigns for Campaign for Better Transport, said: “With future Government finances somewhat uncertain at present, the emphasis must be on getting the most from our investment in HS2.
“Its success depends not only on minimising the damage that the route would cause to communities and landscapes, but also on ensuring that it forms a viable and useful part of the transport network, attracting people and freight off the roads and out of planes.
“To do this, the Government must set out an integration plan to show exactly how HS2 will enable extra freight and passenger trains on the existing network and how the new high speed services and stations will link with the rest of the transport network. Without more progress on this, the potential benefits of the scheme will be badly compromised.”
A High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) spokesperson said: “HS2 was never just about faster journeys from London to Birmingham, and this phase will extend the transformative economic benefits of the project to cities all across the country. It also creates a springboard for a full national network that will bring HS2’s benefits to cities such as Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, Crewe and Manchester.
“HS2 will revitalise the northern economy by driving urban regeneration and creating tens of thousands of jobs in key towns and cities. The improved connectivity will make these cities a more attractive location for businesses, transforming local communities and providing a huge economic boost to Britain.
“The award of the enabling works contracts is equally important. It means that within months’ spades will be in the ground and construction underway.
“HSRIL’s recent report on employment and HS2 showed that 28,000 jobs will be created on the project by 2020. These contract awards mean that the first of those jobs will be created almost immediately.
“The industry delivers projects similar to HS2 all over the world and is ready, willing and able to do so in the UK. Delivering such projects on time and on budget is of vital importance, and that is what we intend to do on HS2.”
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “HS2 will become a very important part of Britain’s railway for decades to come, and will play a huge part in managing the capacity challenge that we face.
“Rail companies are already delivering the £50 billion plus Railway Upgrade Plan to build the bigger, better, more modern network that Britain needs to carry even more people and freight safely, quickly, reliably and efficiently, which includes the start of construction on HS2.
“The rail industry is working hard to ensure HS2 is seamlessly integrated with the existing network as one railway when the new line opens in 2026.”
Images courtesy of HS2.