Phase 2a of HS2, the stretch of the project between the West Midlands and Crewe in Cheshire, has been approved by parliament.
According to HS2, Royal Assent for this phase of the scheme means the 58km route will be built earlier than originally planned, and its opening can now be planned to coincide with phase one between London and Birmingham, set for 2029-2033.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said the approval is a “landmark moment” for infrastructure revolution. Johnson said: “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.”
HS2 CEO Mark Thurston said the decision is a “clear sign that MPs recognise the enormous potential” of the scheme. He said: “As the first major railway built in the North for more than 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.”
Phase 2a forms the first section of the western leg of HS2, which is set to eventually run to Manchester through phase 2b. HS2 launched the procurement process for phase 2a in November last year, starting with tenders for a £50m early civils work package. In January this year, the project announced that joint ventures including Ferrovial Construction and Balfour Beatty had been appointed to the £431m track contract for the phase.
Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect, a joint private and public sector body that researches and recommends transport projects, said: “Today’s historic milestone will be music to the ears of businesses, investors and travellers alike. It’s heartening to see progress being made. Government must now work to ensure this momentum is maintained and that construction is started on the Birmingham-to-Crewe leg as soon as possible.”
Machancoses added: “Any further delay will cause uncertainty at a time where business confidence and job security have been shaken by COVID-19. We in the Midlands and North are clear: we need the whole of the HS2 network to be delivered, in full.”
Crewe and Nantwich MP Kieran Mullan said: “Extending the HS2 line to Crewe is a major step towards levelling up the North. It is crucial to bringing new jobs and opportunities to our town and for creating better local rail connections as we free up the currently overly congested line West Coast Main Line. This reaffirms Crewe’s status at the heart of the rail network and just as we were a crucial part of the previous rail revolution, HS2 will cement our place as a vital part of the next.”
Plans for the station at Crewe were revised in October in the wake of the Oakervee Review, and HS2 is also considering adding a northern rail connection to facilitate an additional five to seven HS2 trains per hour and boost its link with Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Last month, MPs on the public accounts committee criticised the government’s inability to deliver major projects on time and to budget, as well as the lack of transparency around the progress of projects such as HS2.