HS2, Britain’s new high-speed railway, has gained Royal Assent for its plans for Phase 2a, which will extend the new line to Crewe.
Phase 1, from London to Birmingham Curzon Street via Interchange station near Birmingham Airport, received Royal Assent in February 2017 and construction is already underway. Four years later, the next phase of the project has also been approved.
Phase 2a will extend the route from Interchange station to Crewe. Here, trains will be able to access the classic rail network and travel on to Manchester, Scotland and other destinations. Passengers will also be able to connect with other rail services to North Wales and the North of England.
Although construction of Phase 2a has yet to start, plans are already in place for both Phase 1 and Phase 2a to open together in 2029-33.
Parliament’s approval for this new phase of HS2 means the 58km (36miles) route will be built earlier than originally planned, enabling towns and cities across north western England, north Wales and Scotland to benefit sooner, with the opening now planned to coincide with Phase One between London and the West Midlands.
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “Today is a landmark moment in our infrastructure revolution.
“HS2 is the most significant expansion to our national railways in a generation – transforming connectivity between our towns and cities and vastly increasing the capacity of our rail network. By proceeding full steam ahead, we are delivering on our commitment to unite and level up the country.
“The construction of Phase 2a will support thousands of jobs and create opportunities for local businesses as we build back better.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “Whatever your view of this project, 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.
“The signing of the Phase 2a Bill into law is a historic milestone for this ambitious project, which is already creating and supporting thousands of jobs across the UK.
“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.”
HS2 will support around 5,000 jobs to build Phase 2a, with many more in the supply chain. In addition, the railway will support 140 permanent jobs at its maintenance base near Stone in Staffordshire.
Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, welcomed the decision: “Parliament’s approval for extending HS2 beyond the West Midlands to the North is a clear sign that MPs recognise the enormous potential of this scheme and continue to give their strong support.
“As the first major railway built in the North for over 100 years, HS2 will spur massive economic growth for our towns and cities, help to level up the country, and provide cleaner, greener public transport for millions. As construction starts, this new phase of work will very quickly support 5,000 jobs in the North, with many more in the supply chain, further cementing HS2’s critical role in Britain’s economic recovery from the pandemic.”
The rail industry supply chain is naturally pleased with the news. Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), commented: “This is great news, not just of course for the railway industry but also for the UK, its long term connectivity and economy. It is another step towards transforming the rail network, unleashing jobs, investment and economic growth around the country at such an important time, whilst ensuring we have capacity for the future.
“The railway industry is already delivering on this scheme, and it looks forward to working with government, HS2 Ltd, and other partners, in the months and years ahead, to enable the project to be delivered effectively and efficiently.
“Now let’s get on with the Eastern leg too, to deliver the full network and the maximum benefits which the entire HS2 scheme provides.”
Richard Thorp, chief engineer for Britain’s first high-speed line HS1 and a spokesman for the High Speed Rail Group, added: “Today marks a significant milestone in the life of the HS2 project, as it becomes ever more a truly North-South railway.
“HSRG have long highlighted the significant impact Phase 2a will have on line of route towns and beyond. In Crewe, for example, a new commercial hub will be created that will help unlock growth in the wider North West and North Wales.
“As we look to the future, we look forward to seeing the next HS2 phase under development, the Western Leg from Crewe to Manchester, progress. But we must ensure that we develop a high-speed rail network that delivers for the whole of Britain. This includes the areas that will be served by HS2’s Eastern Leg, where the project will also bring with it a wealth of investment, skills and job opportunities, to communities that need them most.
“HS2, and high-speed rail more broadly, will have a transformative impact on our country. We must ensure that we continue to build on the momentum of today’s milestone to build back better as a stronger, greener Britain.”