Delayed HS2 second-phase route unveiled

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent
HS2: The government says it expects the £55bn scheme to be fully operational by 2033.© PA The government says it expects the £55bn scheme to be fully operational by 2033. The preferred route for the second phase of HS2 has been published, setting out exactly where the government will build the high-speed rail network through the north of England – although a controversial decision on how to build to Sheffield has been delayed once again.

Seven significant alterations to the original route are being put out for further consultation, with some likely to provoke outcry in affected areas.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said he “felt desperately sorry” for those residents affected, whom he said would be “treated with fairness, compassion and respect”. Compensation measures would apply immediately, including a premium on compulsory purchases and moving costs.

Proposed HS2 routeThe government is committed to pressing ahead with the broad Y-shaped route to Leeds and Manchester, which it claims will provide up to three times as many intercity train seats and free up more space on existing lines for commuter services.

Grayling said: “Our railways owe much to the Victorian engineers who pioneered them, but we cannot rest on their legacy when we face overcrowding and capacity problems.

“HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century; one that works for all and makes clear to the world that Britain remains open for business.”

According to the Department for Transport, there will be almost 15,000 seats an hour on trains between London and the cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, compared with 5,000 now.

A proposed route was first published in 2013 for the northern half of HS2, but a review of the programme and debate over the location of stations, especially around Sheffield, means detailed plans have been delayed by almost two years from the original schedule. However, the DfT still says it expects the £55bn scheme to be fully operational by 2033.

The bill to secure the first phase of building HS2, between London and Birmingham, is expected to pass through parliament this autumn, allowing work to start next year.

Legislation for the rest of the route is expected to be introduced in 2019. A “Phase 2a” would build the line as far as Crewe for service in 2027.

There is widespread support for the second phase in northern cities, which have been keen to secure transport links. Much of the opposition to HS2 has so far been focused in the Chilterns, where construction will bring no benefit to those affected.

However, the publication of the detailed route is likely to increase the level of opposition. After a revision was made in July to the line’s path through the east Midlands, with a branch to Sheffield, residents on a new estate were told they faced the compulsory purchase of their homes for demolition. That situation has yet to be resolved.

Among the seven changes to have gone out for further consultation are moving a new depot to Crewe, altering the site of a tunnel in southern Manchester, changing the route in Cheshire, Leicestershire, and no longer tunnelling under East Midlands airport.

The government confirmed the route would go to Manchester airport and that a new HS2 station would be built next to Manchester Piccadilly.

Penny Gaines, the chair of Stop HS2, said: “The government is proposing spending £56bn or more on a railway line most people don’t want and that won’t benefit the economies of the Midlands and the north.

“Anywhere where there are gaps in the line is continued uncertainty for people affected. Phase two was announced in early 2013, and these people have been living in limbo for nearly four years.”