Council leaders call on PM to provide clarity over 'vital' HS2

Cllr Sam Corcoran (left) and Cllr Craig Browne

The leader and deputy leader of Cheshire East Council have written to the Prime Minister today (Tuesday, 26th September) to express their deep concern over the intense speculation around the future of HS2 north of Birmingham and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

You can read the letter in full below.

Dear Prime Minister,

HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in the North

We are writing to express our deep concern over the intense speculation around the future of HS2 north of Birmingham and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

This vital rail infrastructure will provide the economic backbone to unlock growth, regeneration, and new jobs across the North - unlocking opportunities and benefits for generations. Investment in the full HS2 western leg to Crewe and Manchester is critical to this - with shared lines that are required to make NPR a reality.

Local areas and businesses in Crewe, and the wider North and Midlands, need clarity and certainty that this once in a lifetime investment will be delivered so we can see the levelling up of the North transition from an ambition to a reality.

Cheshire East Council has worked collaboratively and constructively with Government to date. This includes receiving recent commitments to identify and undertake design work on the interventions needed at Crewe Station, with the DfT funding last month's study on urgent infrastructure requirements.

Despite that, in a similar way to our colleagues in Greater Manchester and other Northern leaders, we have not received any consultation on the reported pending decision. We, along with the chair of the Sub Regional Leaders Board and Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, write to ask for an urgent meeting before a decision is made.

We are available to meet with you at your forthcoming Conference in Manchester in the coming days, in London, or virtually. As you and colleagues travel to Manchester, with many travelling through Crewe, we trust you will see at first hand the immediate need for certainty and investment in the North – and the UK's - core economic infrastructure.

Cheshire East Council has long supported HS2 and its core objectives to connect the largest economic regions across the UK; enable improvements to the rail network; improve places and prosperity across the North; level-up by investing in the development of technical skills; and provide a sustainable long-term transport solution.

These are already being seen in and around Birmingham on the back of Phase 1. Certainty of HS2 Phase 2 and NPR is needed so that similar impacts can be unlocked right across the North.

The Crewe Hub will be the first HS2 hub station in the North and a key catalyst for growth and levelling. In Crewe alone, HS2 and NPR will unlock nearly 5000 new jobs, 4,500 new homes and add £750 million to the town's GVA.

These benefits are replicated across the North and Midlands, and undoubtedly the cost of losing these benefits to Crewe and the wider North will cost the Government much more than the capital required to complete the project.

The council recognises that the country is facing very difficult financial challenges and the need to ensure that public funds are spent responsibly. Rephasing has already increased cost and we stand ready to provide solutions and constructive options to improve the management of the delivery of HS2.

Yours Sincerely,

Cllr Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council

Cllr Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Vince Chadwick
Tuesday 26th September 2023 at 2:55 pm
I believe HS2 in its original (as planned by experts) form was a piece of visionary infrastructure which would have enabled vital economic growth for the UK, especially for Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham. Poor management of the project has not kept a lid on costs (one example is the building of 10 miles of unnecessary tunnels under the Chilterns to appease the NIMBYs – how many £billions did those add?). Political meddling by the government first removed the link to HS1, then the eastern arm up to Leeds, and now looks set to delete the western arm to Manchester.

In addition, deliberate delays to the project have been put in place and one certain way to increase costs of any project is to do that. Furthermore, there is now serious uncertainty that the line will even reach London, instead stopping short at Old Oak Common (population 9,000!) at a station which can only serve a fraction of the number of trains needed on HS2 to make it viable.

So instead of a piece of vital wealth generating infrastructure linking four major cities, thanks to this government we will likely get a very expensive railway from Birmingham to…. Well nowhere, really. Well done Tories! You will have spent a large portion of the money and we will get almost none of the benefits.

If this happens the rump of HS2 (Birmingham to not-quite-London) will be be a permanent testament to the short sightedness and London-centric nature of this self-interested government, as well as a reminder as to what could and should have been built.

So I was a little surprised to find in my email inbox this morning a message from our MP, Esther McVey which began “You have contacted me over the last few years about HS2 and calling for it to be stopped”. This of course is completely untrue.

It went on to urge me to write to the letters pages of five Tory and Brexit-supporting newspapers, giving the relevant email addresses to make that easier, calling for a complete stop to the project. So not only has Ms McVey written to me to tell me I have expressed my support for her ludicrous view on HS2 when I have done no such thing, she is also wanting to see happen the one thing that would be a worse outcome for the project than the Birmingham to nowhere one – to down shovels right now and leave the countryside littered with very expensive half-built viaducts and half-dug tunnels.

I suppose the tunnels could always be used for mushroom farming, which somehow seems appropriate where Ms McVey and this government are concerned.
Pete Wright
Wednesday 27th September 2023 at 8:37 pm
"Cheshire East Council has long supported HS2", really? I didn't realise the council were acting like a political party with an agenda I thought they were there to reflect the wishes of Cheshire residents and I dont recall being asked about the rights or wrongs of HS2. In fact many people are totally against it as it's seen by many as a complete waste of money which would be better spend elsewhere
John Featherstone
Thursday 28th September 2023 at 6:04 pm
the rail link should have started in Manchester and on to Birmingham the first phase then Manchester to Leeds second phase if there was any monies left Birmingham to London that would have been the most sensible way to do it ????
John Duckworth
Friday 29th September 2023 at 10:00 am
I agree with Pete Wright - they should be dealing with LOCAL issues, not national ones That's why we have MPs, not local Councilors to deal with these matters. In my opinion it should not have gone ahead we unlike France and Germany for example are a very small country and our infrastructure should have been improved. But now it has been started it should continue.
Vince Chadwick
Friday 29th September 2023 at 12:44 pm
John Featherstone, the reason first phase of HS2 being built between London and Birmingham, not Manchester or Leeds and Birmingham, is that the project is about releasing much needed capacity on the existing north - south Victorian main lines. The shortage of capacity gets worse the further south you go, as more railway lines feed into those north - south arteries the nearer to London one gets.

By starting the project in the south and working north, the lines with the worst capacity constraints will get relieved first (i.e. when the first section of HS2 to opens).
Ian Baillie
Saturday 30th September 2023 at 3:00 pm
It's ironic that this item appears alongside your item about the financial problems Cheshire East are facing in funding basic maintenance of services, not to mention the awful state of the roads. These problems could be totally resolved at a fraction of the cost of the London government's vanity project to make the north even more dependent on getting to London a few minutes faster.
Alan Brough
Tuesday 3rd October 2023 at 7:16 pm
It’s all about failed Project Management.

The power to constrain their contractors within budget was in their hands at the outset. As ever, they will have negotiated away “Managed and Measurable Cost Control” in favour of something cheap and shiny.

But it’s not REAL money, it’s just public money.
Vince Chadwick
Wednesday 4th October 2023 at 10:29 am
It's symptomatic of what rail expert Christian Wolmar calls our 'who gives a damn railway'. There's no-one at the steering wheel and hasn't been for some time. The last Secretary of State for Transport, the execrable Grant Shapps, actually said "I don't do railways". We were promised 'Great British Railways', an organisation run the railway, and after a competition Derby was chosen as its base - but it just hasn't happened.
One result of this ignoring rail (besides ongoing strikes that the government is showing no interest in settling) is the widespread uncorrected false premise, spread by media, that HS2 is about getting to London a bit quicker rather than its real payback of the release of 70% of the capacity of the Victorian network. You only have to read some posts on this forum to see that belief holds firm with many.
One could believe this is all deliberate - reduce the scope of the project so it won't deliver what it was designed to, extend timescales and allow costs to escalate in an uncontrolled manner..... Then cancel it as useless and too expensive!
And if you believe Sunak's claim that the money not spent on the remainder of HS2 will be used to fund significant alternative transport infrastructure in the north, well, I have this bridge in London you might be interested in buying.
The rump of HS2 that will be built will be forever testament to a government totally lacking vision and with no interest at all in levelling up Britain. Let's hope Labour reverses this ludicrous decision.