The government must either proceed with HS2 Phase 2 or resolve the network pinch points exposed by the cancellation. If the discussions on privately funding phase 2 do not succeed, it is essential that options for the future are not closed for good so land must not be sold. The constraints must be mitigated - as an absolute minimum the Euston terminus and the delta junction east of Birmingham must go ahead. Sign installed at Crewe station, the planned destination for HS2 when phase 2 approved, was still in place after cancellation. Photo by Chris Page for Railfuture.
The decision to cancel HS2 phase 2 will limit the economic benefits to London, the South-East and the West Midlands. There will be no increase in capacity or significant improvement in journey times between the Northern cities and Birmingham (where the current service is poor) or London1. There may even be a decrease in freight capacity. The opportunity to achieve decarbonisation of transport by modal shift to rail has been missed, and inward investment to the UK will be lost, impacting productivity and living standards.
UK finances may not allow the decision to be reversed immediately, but the benefits identified above are still needed. Therefore it is essential to keep all options open and to mitigate the most significant constraints of the current proposal.
Safeguarding of the route should be maintained until the eventual HS2 configuration is defined by the vision below and the route, or an alternative, is approved for implementation. Land already purchased should be actively managed to achieve value – it should not be sold at a loss only to have to be repurchased at a later date at an inflated price.
Pressure to cut construction costs of phase 1 by changing the design must be resisted as this would impact either future expansion or through-life costs.
Network Rail's capacity planning assumed that phase 2 would be built, so the following mitigations are required. It may be cheaper to reverse the cancellation of phase 2.
- Order extra Elizabeth Line trains and add platforms on London Overground lines at Old Oak Common to provide capacity to Central and Outer London.
- Provide legal approval to revert to a fast line junction with the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre (between Lichfield and Stafford) to resolve freight capacity constraint.
- Design and implement 4 tracks at Shugborough (between Lichfield and Stafford) and a solution for Crewe to resolve freight capacity constraints.
- Develop and agree a coherent plan for access by HS2 services to Manchester to avoid conflict with local services and safeguard an HS2 station at Piccadilly.
- Include a link to the West Coast Main Line in plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail; between Liverpool Manchester Airport and Piccadilly, NPR was dependent on HS2.
- Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line capacity and speed enhancements.
- Passive provision to redevelop some existing Euston platforms for HS2, with grade separation, and for junction to East Midlands Parkway.
A long term vision should be created to map out how HS2 can be developed to achieve greater benefits and increase its viability. As a bare minimum, these are needed immediately:
- A delta junction east of Birmingham to enable services between Birmingham and the Northern cities – it is unclear whether this is still in the current proposal.
- The Euston terminus, as proposed for private funding, but without effectively creating a 'ransom strip' which would impact the financial viability of services.
Then progressively, to maximise the use of HS2 and deliver benefit nationally, implement:
- The branch to East Midlands Parkway as previously planned, linking East Midlands with West Midlands and London – this delivered half the original benefits of HS2.
- An extension to north of Crewe to enable additional services.
- Extra HS2 platforms at Euston to enable the number of services to be doubled.
- An extension through Manchester and on to Leeds.
Mayor discusses HS2 alternative with minister
HS2 phase 2 safeguarding lifted
Notwork North article on page 23 of Railwatch 178
HS2 Phase 2 cancellation
High Speed Rail