Posted 8th October 2020 | 5 Comments

HS2 eastern spur to Leeds ‘in doubt’ as Manchester takes the lead

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.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • H. Gillies-Smith, South Milford

    Well that's the folly of not using bulk of the former Great Central Railway with its centre of the country bias rather than just the west side. What have we seen so far from Northern Powerhouse Rail so far? High cost security fencing in excess of statutory requirements erected between Leeds and Selby. Which now looks in doubt for electrification. This route affords an alternative to accessing the ECML in lieu of via Wakefield which seems to have more than it's fair share of problems. It's straightforward to do, seems a sensible course of action and should be carried out first while the powers that be procrastinate over what to do between Guide Bridge and Leeds.

  • Nick Fowles, DeLand

    Pragmatism would suggest that a version of the original 'S@ design would now make sense with sensible requirements for a new core Trans Pennine route.

    Build the HS2 Manchester Piccadilly station under the current Piccadilly station to allow underground running to a new sub surface Victoria station then on to Leeds, again under the current station with links out to pick up the Hull and York lines. Some big ticket items here but still far cheaper than the Eastern arm.

    This gives a fast East West connection, takes enough Manchester Airport to Edinburgh, North East, Leeds and Hull of the Castlefield link to make that viable again.

    Fully Electrify the MML including the Barrow Hill route and routes to Doncaster, remove a couple of flat junctions on the MML and suddenly you satisfy most of the capacity issues and speed issues.

    We have to invest, but invest wisely

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Yes, London to Leeds , and other Yorkshire cities , plus Teesside and Tyneside would be better speeded up by a HS rebuild of the ECML , using the "new build stretches" method, with 200mph cutoffs through open country, and existing conventional 140mph stretches where construction would be more costly. Such a line could also host HS trains to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

    The distribution of cities served this way means a greater potential"sea change" , making timings competitive with aviation and bringing new day return opportunities. Construction costs would ,, per - mile, be lower than for the West Coast alignment, too. Manchester is appx 2hrs 10 min. from Euston , with the lion's share of this market already on rail, and it's needs are not primarily for greater speed ( the sea - change for this has already happened). Resignalling would allow the Pendolinos to utilise their 140 mph potential, bringing timings under 2 hours. Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham 's need isn't for very high speeds, Manchester being only 189 miles from Euston , compared with King's Cross to Darlington's 240miles, Newcastle at 270, Edinburgh 399 and Glasgow around 440 miles. I think the people in West Midlands and the Northwest could suggest better ways of investing in their railway infrastructure.

    As for extra capacity , (a) how much will be needed, now that covid 19 has struck ?, and (b) conventional speed extra railway could make use of existing ex - Great Central stretches ( a working line already in use between Calvert and London ), for a fraction of HS2 costs. One scenario would make this a dedicated freight route, freeing WCML.

  • Melvyn, Canvey Island , Essex

    When HS2 was originally planned by the Greengauge Group there was no Northern Powerhouse Rail or Azusa trains and so they drew up a plan that included links to MML and ECML in order to spread its benefits on a network wide basis .

    However, a decade on plans for a more comprehensive upgrade to railways I the north are being planned and experience in passing legislation for stage 1 has shown how including too much in a single piece of legislation slows everything down and so breaking the plans into more stages makes sense.

    So we have stage 1 now underway with legislation for stage 2a which is a simple extension of stage 1 to Crewe with upgrades at Crewe to take longer HS2 trains .

    Stage 2b would have been extensors to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds but we now have NPR so combining plans for both makes sense .

    So an legislation for extension to Manchester simplify legislation with upgrades to Manchester Piccadilly to include furs NOR now known as High Speed North makes sense .

    We also have new Azuma trains which make upgrade of ECML to 140 mph could be more benefit to Leeds for London jpiurneys than HS2 link would have been ?

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    No certainty about anything these days, - especially not in the area of transport. Will Airlines or Railways ever get their passengers back ? Will electric cars and electric bikes now be the in-thing ? My Crystal Ball has gone completely opaque. But the Government does have to balance the books sometime, and the Railways can't expect the increased subsidies it is having to continue, and cuts will have to be made somewhere or fares increased.