The UK government’s Department for Transport announced on Monday that the high speed rail link known as HS2, connecting Crewe to Birmingham, will open six years earlier than planned.
Phase 2a of HS2 is now expected to open in 2027, which the government said will bring major benefits to the Midlands, Northern Powerhouse and Scotland sooner, building on the excellent connectivity which is already in place at Crewe, as well as supporting growth and local jobs.
HS2 is anticipated to significantly cut journey times, as well as improve capacity on the UK’s busy railways. The new route has reportedly been billed as a considerable catalyst for driving growth and rebalancing regional economies across the country.
On completion of Phase 2a in 2027, journey times on HS2 phases 1 and 2a will be significantly reduced. The Crewe to London journey will be shorter by 35 minutes; Manchester to London will be take 40 minutes less to travel; and the time taken to travel from Glasgow to London will be cut by 48 minutes
The government announced in its 2015 Spending Review that it will spend GBP55.7bn on the whole of HS2 programme and will spend GBP13bn on improving transport links in the North.
When the entire HS2 programme is complete, the journey time from London to Manchester is expected to fall by one hour, from London to Glasgow by 53 minutes and from Birmingham Curzon Street to Leeds by 65 minutes.
Additionally, the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed that John Cridland, former Director General of the CBI, has been appointed as the first Chair of Transport for the North (TfN). This organisation was recently been created to help transform transport connectivity across the Northern Powerhouse and will receive GBP200m in financial support from the government.
TfN will provide Oyster-style ticketing across rail, bus, metro and trams across the Northern Powerhouse.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin stated: “HS2 will mean an economic transformation for the whole country. Bringing HS2 to Crewe ahead of time is a tremendous opportunity for the North to feel the benefits even sooner. Cities across the North West and Scotland will gain much needed additional rail capacity and faster services, helping support growth and deliver jobs.
“We continue to make good progress on our plans for the rest of HS2 Phase Two serving Manchester, East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Leeds and will make a decision on the route in autumn 2016.
“The government continues to boost economic growth by investing in transport with a clear focus on the Northern Powerhouse and I welcome the appointment of John Cridland as chairman of Transport for the North and look forward to working closely with him to deliver a world class transport network for the region.”
HS2 Ltd Chairman Sir David Higgins added:
“This is another significant milestone in the development of Britain’s high speed rail network. By accelerating the second phase between Birmingham and Crewe, we will bring the capacity, connectivity and regeneration benefits of HS2 to the North-West and Scotland years earlier than originally planned. It has also been very gratifying, as we develop the plans for Phase Two, to see a consensus grow among the city regions in the East Midlands and Yorkshire on the siting of future hub stations at Toton and Leeds city centre respectively. We all recognise the huge contribution this infrastructure investment can make in helping to rebalance our economy.”