DOUBTS are growing about the future of the eastern branch of HS2 to the East Midlands and Yorkshire, after rail minister Andrew Stephenson said the government was ‘considering the best approach to get the most benefit for Leeds, the North East, and the East Midlands’, while also ‘prioritising development of the western leg into Manchester’.
A new public consultation has been launched on a series of ‘proposed design refinements’ for the western leg. There are four proposed modifications to the current design, affecting the already proposed rolling stock depot at Crewe, a new Crewe Northern Connection (which would also support a Crewe Hub) and expansion plans at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly high speed stations. The changes also include a newly proposed stabling point for rolling stock at Annandale in Scotland.
HS2 said its proposals ’fully support the vision for HS2 and NPR becoming the new backbone of Britain’s national rail network’.
But the development has triggered a warning from Lord Adonis, who was transport secretary when he first unveiled plans for high speed lines more than a decade ago.
Lord Adonis wrote on Twitter that the government ‘is only now going ahead with the Manchester leg of HS2 and is delaying indefinitely the eastern leg to Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby. By deferring decisions on eastern leg of HS2 while confirming Manchester leg, the Leeds leg will probably not now go ahead. Phase 2b will probably become just Manchester.’
He added: ‘The economic and social consequences of today’s HS2 decision are profound. The whole eastern side of England, without HS2, is downgraded. A catastrophically big and bad decision.’
Tim Wood, a director at Transport for the North, said it was ‘crucial’ that the eastern route goes ahead. He continued: ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail relies on parts of HS2 infrastructure being built to run its trains too.’
His concerns have been echoed in the Midlands, where Midlands Connect director Maria Machancoses said it was ‘essential’ that the eastern leg should go ahead.
There is concern on the back benches in the Commons as well, where 22 MPs have written to the Prime Minister, urging him not to cut the HS2 network back.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: ‘As we set out in January, the full delivery of the eastern leg will be shaped by the integrated rail plan, and there is no change to delivering on that.’