The HS2 railway line has been given the formal approval to extend northwards from Birmingham to Crewe – the Phase 2a of the project.

Crewe is a major railway junction for the north of England, and connects to the existing mainline to North Wales, Liverpool and Glasgow. The Parliamentary approval also means the 36-mile extension will be built earlier than originally planned, with the opening now planned to coincide with Phase One between London and the West Midlands.

Once operational, high-speed services operating between London, Birmingham and Crewe will use the newly-constructed railway, then joins the existing rail network to create direct services to places including Liverpool, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow.

Crewe is also the station for connections to North Wales and Shrewsbury.

Construction of the extension will require 17 new viaducts, 36 embankments, 65 bridges, 26 cuttings and 2 tunnels, and will see 78 hectares of native broadleaved woodland be planted.

Once open, HS2 2a will carry six services per hour, freeing up the West Coast Mainline between Lichfield and Crewe.

As HS2 will take intercity traffic off the existing railways, it should see capacity double on lines between Crewe and Stoke-on-Trent to Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield and Rugeley. It should also enable more services from Crewe to Runcorn and Liverpool, as well as via Crewe between North Wales, Chester and London.

Related to the announcement, there is a local consultation that recently opened to look at reopening closed railway lines and stations in the region that could make us of the additional rail capacity to improve regional rail services.

Being not just capacity for more trains, the HS is high-speed, so they expect a journey from Glasgow to London to be around 44 minutes faster, from Manchester to London to be a quarter faster at 90 minutes, and a journey from Crewe to London to be under an hour (34 mins faster).


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  1. Melvyn says:

    While those six services will actually be twelve new trains as double length trains (400 metres approx) are planned to run from Euston to Crewe where the trains will split into two 200 metre trains allowing one train to say continue to Liverpool and the other to Manchester or splits to say Glasgow etc . Plans for Stage 2a include platform lengthening at Crewe Station. While southbound trains will join together at Crewe .

    Given HS2 trains will be electric trains I reckon Wales should campaign for electrification of north Wales line either in part or whole depending on demand.

    This news puts to rest talk of HS2 not getting past Birmingham and will also mean construction can begin at both ends .

    Plans are for Crewe to Manchester with provision for Northern Powerhouse Rail to Liverpool to be the next stage with legislation due to begin next year . Thus creating what is in effect WCML2 !

  2. Gerard Meade says:

    I cannot help but believe that this is a white elephant. Covid has shown that a vast swathe of the workforce can work from home and that companies will change their methods of doing business , zoom meetings for instance.

    The monies involved would be better spent on upgrading existing lines, electrification and infrasture projects such as high speed broadband.
    We will pay for this mistake for generations, but the politians involved will have moved on and be generously remunerated at our expense.

    • ianvisits says:

      You can’t easily improve local rail connections until you create space for the intercity services to be moved on to – that’s what HS2 does — it soaks up the intercity traffic, giving more space for local and regional rail to be upgraded.

      As the majority of traffic on intercity services is actually families travelling, not businesses, while some families will also stick to zoom calls, do you really think that in 20 years time, holidays, football matches, funerals, weddings will all stay online?

    • Pete says:

      HS2 £120 billion pound and counting.
      No thought of the effects on village life through the effects of construction traffic during the construction phase.
      All the waste from this project should be removed by rail as opposed to hundreds of trucks running through the small villages south of Crewe for years to come. Alternatives have been suggested but this outfit HS2 will not listen and only have blinkered views.
      Spending this amount of money at a time when the country is in debt from the pandemic and the effects of Brexit is unbelievable.

    • Michael Sharp says:

      That comment is why we are where we are now. Sticky plaster after sticky plaster will not work any more. Many European countries have railway systems far ahead of what we have and have done for decades. HS2 provides the chance to use the freed up capacity on the existing lines for more freight unloading our overloaded road system. Not soon enough for me.

    • Jimbo says:

      Just because people can work from home, doesn’t mean they will want to. I run a team of 16 people, who of whom are currently working from home and all of whom are hating it. Yes, a few days a week from home is good, but full time, no thanks. We need to get out and be with people again – Zoom is a good temporary solution and will drive a lot of change, but it won’t replace the need to travel.

      As for spending the money on other projects, each project has to stand up by itself and so if a line upgrade can be justified, it will be done at the same time as HS2. On the other hand, if HS2 was cancelled, the money would not be spent improving other lines, it would be spent on hospitals, motorways or foregin aid. Spare infrastructure capacity is usually equated to a waste of money, but it should really be considered as an opportunity to expand. Railways (and roads) don’t have to be full to be useful.

    • Chas says:

      Construction of the Hoover Dam helped to lift the US economy out of the Great Depression.

    • Jimmy says:

      First, I can’t see any politician benefitting from kickbacks from this. Construction firms may milk it, but it takes a serious amount of man-hours to build this, and bidding has been genuinely competitive.
      Second, the whole idea is that this is a 10-20 year plan. In the meantime we increase the lengths and frequency of trains, etc, but we can only eek out so much from the existing lines. The idea is we start building an entirely new line now so that when we hit the buffers (figuratively) through normal upgrades there is the extra capacity ready to come online.
      Third, you can believe projections for increased rail demand are wrong, fair enough. Phillip Hammond as Transport Secretary said he was concerned that a ‘modal shift’ to electric cars could undermine projections. That’s possible, I suppose, but more likely in my opinion is that an ever greater proportion of people will reside in cities, resulting in them favouring public over private transport, and that this will be the dominant factor, ahead of increased working from home, which is bound to go out of fashion as we all want to get back to normal.

    • Paul says:

      @Jimbo is right
      The whole “everyone will work from home forevermore” argument is nonsense. We’re desperate not to be stuck at home any more, after a year office workers are struggling with video conferencing fatigue, teams are getting very brittle without informal face time – catch-ups between formal meetings, conversations in corridors, chats over lunch or coffee – these are the essential activities that underpin good teamwork and we need them back as soon as that’s safe and sensible.

      In fact, I think this whole experience will increase demand for longer distance travel as everyone has a new appreciation for the value of face to face contact. Workers in larger firms may in future be based at home, but required to travel to different offices 2-3 times a week to interact with different teams.

      And video conferencing wasn’t invented in 2020 – it’s been around in various forms for 25 years, Skype was launched 15 years ago and most office workers had access to some sort of video conferencing 10 years ago. Big firms have been squeezing business travel budgets since the 2008 crisis – the only travel happening in 2019 in well managed firms was already what was considered essential and not suitable for video meetings – so the idea that suddenly there’ll be no demand for it at all is, again, absolute nonsense.

    • Steve Peeler says:

      “And video conferencing wasn’t invented in 2020 – it’s been around in various forms for 25 years,”

      Indeed: I’ve been in the IT profession for nearly 40 years and even before the WWW came along, “video conferencing will replace the need to travel” is a “old chestnut” that did the rounds every few years. We’d build the VC suites, people would use them twice, hate it, then they’d sit fallow for a few months until we ran out of space and turned them back into office. “Zoom” “Team” et al is just the latest incarnation.

      In the time VC has been technically possible, the desire for face to face contact has gone up not down.

      It will be interesting to watch what happens as COVID lock down gets lifted – I’ll bet one of the first things will be legions of people heading off to meet with friends, family and colleagues they haven’t seen except through a screen for months.

  3. John Watkins says:

    This is the West Coast project that should have been done instead of the very expensive tweaks done 5/10/15 yrs ago to the existing line.

    Now that it is joining at Crewe, I suspect that there will be no phase 2 to Manchester or Yorkshire.

    • Paul P says:

      Given that High Speed 3 has a stronger business case and is likely to go ahead, it seems unlikely that the Govt wouldn’t take HS2 as far as at least Manchester.

    • Steve Peeler says:

      However, there are some design refinements (some of them quite significant) out for consultation recently. I doubt they would have bothered if they were about to cancel it.

      The government has committed publicly, including at the despatch box, that is intent on building the whole of HS2.

      The “Integrated Rail Plan” is I think where the next action is to see if they are finding a way to weasel out of it.

  4. Paul says:

    @Jimbo :

    A couple of days a week at home sounds like a hybrid that will work in many different types of business.

    All you need is a reform of train season tickets so as to make three days a week travel financially viable.

  5. Wilfred greaves says:

    HS2 is a complet wast of money the money should be spent on existing railway infrastructure

    • ianvisits says:

      Why do you think all the railway engineers who support this project are wrong and how would your alternative be better?

  6. RFL says:

    As Millennial, I dont quite understand the why many people are against this project.
    Yes, it will be costly. All great things are. Decades from now these things will run solely solar, and much faster travel to every parts of the country. Connecting people in the remote.

    Japan built theirs in 1960s and still a marvel to this age. I also want to see that on the land where those trains were invented.

    This is an investment for the future, the economy and the environment.

  7. ChrisC says:

    I think the WCML has been upgraded up to its limits of the technology available and geography of the current line. If only the Victorians overrode the interests of landowners and got approval to build the line straigter than they could because they had to follow curvy property boundaries.

    There is simply no more capacity on the line to add either more intercity or local train and freight capacity

    I wonder how many people would still object if HS2 was called something like WCML2 or NWMML (North West & Midlands Main Line) because in essence that’s what it is.

    I hold no truck with using (in the scheme of things here to day gone tomorrow) covid as a reason for not biulding it. You can say the same in regard to not building new office blocks. We need to stop making short term decisions and more long term ones and bear the risks accordingly.

    • Steve Peeler says:

      “I wonder how many people would still object if HS2 was called something like WCML2 or NWMML (North West & Midlands Main Line) because in essence that’s what it is.”

      I suspect NIMBY’s would moan whatever it was called. “Look” they would howl “this new WCML Capacity Relief Scheme is a 200MPH railway – the government never told us that, it’s really bad.”

      NIMBY’ism is about “it” (whatever “it” is – they don’t care) being “built near me.” All the “eco” “carbon” “trees” arguments and so on are just window dressing for their objections.

  8. Rob C says:

    All the shortsighted naysayers need to realise that this new line will still be in use in 100 years time. Good job the Victorians didn’t listen to the naysayers otherwise we would of had a rail system at all.

  9. Kenneth Sherwood says:

    As a Northerner who enjoys all the news from the Capital, I am really pleased to see something to improve not only journeys southwards but to help the interconnectivity in the north. I agree with those here who say we need the extra capacity hopefully to the benefit of local rail services and freight moving to rail and all the reductions in road traffic and the pollution it causes

  10. Andrew Gwilt says:

    Will Phase 2b also get given the go ahead at some point. Or is Phase 2b to be scrapped.

    • Steve Peeler says:

      As above:

      However, there are some design refinements (some of them quite significant) out for consultation recently. I doubt they would have bothered if they were about to cancel it.

      The government has committed publicly, including at the despatch box, that is intent on building the whole of HS2.

      The “Integrated Rail Plan” is I think where the next action is to see if they are finding a way to weasel out of it.

      Phase 2B to Manchester Bill is currently expected in Parliament late 2021/early 2022. Which gives some idea just how far into the future “spades in the ground” are for future phases.

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