Posted 25th January 2024 | 11 Comments

Mayor confirms private investment plan for HS2 to Manchester

Talks are set to take place between transport secretary Mark Harper and the city Mayors of Birmingham and Manchester, when they will present a plan to rescue HS2 north of the West Midlands to Crewe and Manchester by introducing private investment.

Phases 2A and 2B were axed by the Prime Minister last October, on the grounds that they were too expensive.

He also scrapped the remaining link to the East Midlands, which was originally intended to continue to South and West Yorkshire but was then terminated at East Midlands Parkway. Work on the link from Old Oak Common in west London to Euston has also been ‘paused’ for two years, while the government investigates the possibility of private sector funding.

Mayor of Birmingham Andy Street was speaking to the BBC when work began at Curzon Street yesterday, which will be the central Birmingham terminus for HS2.

He said the proposals being laid before the transport secretary included a dedicated line between Birmingham and Manchester, but that it was ‘highly unlikely’ to be the same as the discarded HS2 design, and he did not rule out an upgrade to the existing West Coast Main Line rather than construction on a new alignment. 

He added that the research had been approved by the Prime Minister but further details are unlikely to be revealed, at least until after next week’s meeting with the transport secretary.

However, Mark Harper did say that he would ‘listen with an open mind’ to the Mayors’ proposals, which have been in preparation since December. The group carrying out this work is chaired by former Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Michael T., Reading

    Keir could do HS2, HS3, HS4, HS5 etc a Great Favour.
    He could say that when Labour win the next GE, these WILL be constructed and that IF anyone purchases any of the land that was to be the route of HS2, HS3... the Government would be buying it back from whom ever owns it... for exactly the Same Price the buyers in 2024 paid to the Tory Poisoning of the Well Attempt.
    This will stop anyone from buying the land... and any land that was sold, will be in Limbo until after the next GE when the Tory Party is Eradicated from Parliament.

  • david C smith, Bletchley

    The comments here just illustrate so many possible infrastructue development possibilities - interesting.!

    Of these , now that the Elisabeth line frees up some platform capacity , maybe Paddington might become a terminal for Chiltern and / or GWR service to Birmingham ?

  • James Hutton, Oxford

    Interesting discussion. At the London end of the line, two possibilities might be worth investigating. First running into Paddington from Old Oak Common. Perhaps increasing the size of the Elizabeth line station to take suburban services from the surface station? Secondly link from Old Oak Common to St Pancras - then Eurostar trains could run from the Birmingham interchange to Paris/Brussels. Border staff are already based at Birmingham Airport. Perhaps TfL - the London Mayor - could look at the first option. Euston has poor interchange options, compared to Paddington.

  • Jonathan B, Hertforshire

    This whole project needs a fresh vision beyond Birmingham and beyond Old Oak Common.
    With current demography and technology what vision is there for where we want to be by 2124?

    (a) I see no point in serving Euston.
    Old Oak Common has interchange capabilities with Elizabeth Line, Central Line, West London Line, North London Line.

    (b) Longer term through HS2 services over an upgraded West London Line to a rebuilt Clapham Junction.
    Providing improved links to the South Coast.

    (c) Two through platforms at Waterloo providing through services to Kent.

    (d) A mini crossrail 2 project extending the Great Northern over enlarged Waterloo & City line tunnels to Clapham Junction.

  • John Porter , Leeds

    What matters is 130mph on average or better, with some high speed running and some conventional running to Scotland. But our politicians took a different view shortly after May 2015 when as usual DfT sought potential alternatives to HS2 Phase2a. Those alternatives had to improve connectivity and journey times north of Birmingham and deliver similar benefits quicker than the full HS2. That study identified
    # a Medium Cost option, which bypassed Colwich Junction at conventional speed and used 1/3rd of the Phase2a alignment, reached Crewe at half the cost, but delivered 60% of the benefits of Phase2a - and
    # a high cost alternative using 2/3rds of the Phase 2a alignment and rejoining an 18km length of WCML upgraded to 125 or 140mph, at 2/3rds of the cost and delivering 80% of the benefits of Phase2a - plus
    # a low cost option with similar cost benefit relationships to Phase2a, but like the above more uncertainty. It bypassed Colwich Junction on a new 18km conventional alignment to the Colwich to Stone line upgraded north of that to 140 mph at 40% of the cost and benefits of Phase2a.
    The Mayors’ study clearly needs to reconsider those options, now that rail traffic growth has been affected by the pandemic.

  • david C smith, Bletchley

    I won't go into details, but it seems that the capacity and speed issues are at last being looked at a bit more sensibly.

    If an average speed of no more than around 130 mph can bring all intercity services within around 3 hours, at least the services to/from the London termini, then they would all allow day returns viable, and would be competitive with air time - wise ( particularly Glasgow and Edinburgh ). Infrastructure with higher speed limits might be applied in the open country, as cut - offs,with lower limits within urban areas.

  • John Porter , Leeds

    Moor St and Birmingham Interchange as Cross Country (XC) hubs are what HS2/DfT proposed, as an alternative to a link between HS2 and existing New Street lines in the Water Orton area suggested by Greenguage. Ideally BOTH ARE NEEDED as diverting the Nottingham & Stansted XC services into Moor St
    # connects with any faster extra Manchester services and
    # frees up 4 paths per hour to strengthen other existing New Street services and
    # my proposal links Birmingham to Leicester every 15 minutes instead of every 30.

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    Let's reserve judgement on the Mayors initiative until they're made public as whatever the desirability of reserecting the phase 2 link the politics are going to be messy. While the Transport Secretary may have an 'open mind' it's questionable how open the PM's mind is especially in an election year when for short term financial & electoral advantage he's already done so much to sabotage the project.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    The link between the HS2 line into Curzon St onto the New St lines would not be to put new additional traffic into New St, but to allow some existing Cross Country services on the Southwest to Northeast axis to use HS2 for part of their journey east of Birmingham towards Manchester (and Derby/Nottingham etc.). Even if they only travel on HS2 as far as Handsacre or the (now more critically needed) links to the current Derby/Leicester/Nottingham lines they would relieve traffic on the current eastern approaches to New St. This would also allow for other current services using New St, like Euston to Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton (and on to the north/Scotland) services to use HS2 for a significant portion of their journey.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    As Birmingham New St is the Cross Country hub I seriously doubt Moor St would be seem as acceptable as an alternative. What absolutely needs to be done is a link from the HS2 approach to Curzon St station onto the lines into New St. It seems like a huge oversight/mistake that wasn't part of the original plan.
    [No capacity at New Street.--Ed.]

  • John Porter , Leeds

    HS2 Phase 2 needs to be replaced by cheaper better focused schemes after sensible passive provision. Fortunately the West Midlands & Manchester mayors and Midlands Connect have started planning for that eventuality. I hope they include a cheap link from HS2 to the Birmingham to Derby line - unwisely rejected in the Integrated Rail Plan - which favoured instead a more costly separate HS2 line to Trent Junction.
    That requires HS2 trains using the paths of diverted Cross Country Nottingham/ /Derby to Cardiff services; Diverted via Leicester and Birmingham Moor Street a route upgrade already funded by the Prime Minister’s recent announcement.
    Similarly HS2 trains reaching Derby from London within 60 minutes, could replace the Birmingham New Street & Airport to Sheffield, York and beyond Cross Country services - if further HS2 trains divide at Derby and Birmingham or -12car variants of HS2 trains are practical; A better use of the rolling stock order than having to pay for reducing the order.