HS2 'was a once in a lifetime opportunity which has now been pulled from underneath us'


Cheshire East Council says the Government's decision to scrap HS2 north of Birmingham is a 'devastating blow to Crewe, Cheshire East and the wider region'.

Today (4 October), the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he is 'cancelling the rest of the HS2 project' – meaning high-speed rail will not make it to Crewe.

He also announced that 'every single penny' that Phase 2a and 2b would have cost will be 'reinvested', with £36bn for 'hundreds of new transport projects in the North, and the Midlands and across the country'.

The council is now urging Government to provide assurance that Cheshire East will be provided with sufficient funding from this £36bn HS2 saving to enable new transport projects and equivalent economic growth.

Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "Today's announcement from Government is extremely worrying and disappointing and has significant and far-reaching impacts on the council's plans, our communities and businesses, and the North as a whole.

"The council has long supported the principle of HS2 and its core objectives to connect the largest economic regions across the UK, and we have already invested and committed significant funds and resource through our efforts to maximise the benefits and opportunities of HS2 to Crewe and Manchester.

"Investment in the full HS2 western leg to Crewe and Manchester would improve places and prosperity across the region and be the vital economic backbone to unlock growth, regeneration, and new jobs – delivering opportunities and benefits for generations to come.

"Phase 2a and 2b are also critical to delivering levelling up to places like Crewe – where half of the council wards are in the top 10 per cent most deprived in the country.

"But today's U-turn from Government will result in levelling down, not up, and is a devastating blow to Crewe, Cheshire East, and the wider region."

Last week, the leader and deputy leader of Cheshire East Council wrote to the Prime Minister asking for an urgent meeting before any decision was made on HS2. It received no response.

Cllr Corcoran added: "We of course need time to understand the full scale of the impact of Government's announcement. But the council has already committed £11.2m to long-term plans based around 5-7 high-speed trains per hour stopping in Crewe, knowing that the eventual economic benefits would have been far greater, and local regeneration plans are already under construction.

"In Crewe alone, HS2 would unlock nearly 5,000 new jobs, 4,500 new homes and boost the local economy by £750m.

"This was a once in a lifetime opportunity which has now been pulled from underneath us.

"That is why despite today's news, we will work with our neighbours, partners, and businesses in the North to make the case to Government to reconsider its decision and to deliver on its promises to the North through delivery of the full western leg of HS2 to Crewe and Manchester and future commitments to Northern Powerhouse Rail."

Cllr Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council and chair of its highways and transport committee, said: "HS2 is not about speed or a fast train to London; it is about freeing up capacity across our congested northern rail network so that we can get the regular, reliable services upon which our businesses, commuters and visitors expect and deserve.

"It is important for an integrated sustainable transport strategy for Cheshire East and the sub region.

"It is also about economic growth and levelling up, with HS2 estimated to boost the economy of Cheshire and Warrington by £2bn per annum alone – a hugely significant sum.

"That is why for more than a decade, the council has worked collaboratively and constructively with Government on its plans for HS2 north of Birmingham and has developed the Crewe Hub vision – based on the HS2 promises Government has made to Crewe and Cheshire East.

"This includes recent commitments to identify and undertake design work on the interventions needed at Crewe Station, with the Department for Transport funding a study on urgent infrastructure requirements, which took place just a few weeks ago.

"As a result of today's announcement, our ambitious plans for growth will no longer be viable and it is a fresh burden on already extremely stretched council resources.

"We will now seek answers from Government on how it intends to compensate the council, and its partners, for the significant financial investment, time and resources already expended, and the passion that local authorities, communities and business have invested in the continued promises of HS2 over many years and ensure that this has not been in vain. This includes seeking funding for transport infrastructure."

Cllr Browne added: "Today's announcement from Government has come as a particular shock given it was only in August that we welcomed Minister of State for Rail and HS2, Huw Merriman MP, to Crewe.

"We discussed positively how rail infrastructure can support town centre regeneration, and the benefits HS2 would bring to Crewe, and he saw first-hand why Crewe station desperately needs investment to ensure it is future-proofed – irrespective of HS



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

Pete Wright
Wednesday 4th October 2023 at 1:08 pm
Great news. As long as the billions saved is spent wisely to regenerate and renew northern train lines, including especially east/west connections, this could well prove a massive bonus to those not obsessed with all things London. Hopefully the existing line to Birmingham can be upgraded at a much lower cost and passengers can transfer there onto HS1 when it's finished
William McQueen
Wednesday 4th October 2023 at 2:28 pm
This project was never ever going to work, and (as all government contracts) was never ever going to be completed to budget. Its costing billions to get to Birmingham from London about half an hour quicker. Having lived in Birmingham in the past I ask myself "why??".
We dont even know how much a ticket will cost. Its already a fortune on Avanti. How a (presumably) more expensive ticket on this thing is going to help the deprived of Crewe is beyond me.

Had they spent the billions on high speed broadband infrastructure for everyone, we wouldnt need to travel!
Simon Worthington
Wednesday 4th October 2023 at 2:33 pm
Mr. Brown has it right. If the project had been correctly called "The North South Freight Line" it may have proceeded. The railways are clogged around the midlands and we are supposed to be removing "polluting lorries" (don't start me on the net zero scam).
Crewe and the north gets had over by the "London Blob" again. All those who have deserted the dump of London for the Midlands and Brum now have their connection.
For those with a few years on the clock we can recall all the promises about the development of Crewe for trains direct to France etc. Massive investment we were told. As soon as the blob realised the masses could then avoid London that got scrapped.
Jon Kelly
Wednesday 4th October 2023 at 2:39 pm
The move is being badged as a long term decision but in fact there is a great suspicion it is just the Treasury tightening the purse strings because of the unplanned costs of COVID. There is no long term vision at all for transport , energy or pretty much anything, it is just a desperate attempt to stave off defeat at the next election.
George Osborne wanted to see a Powerhouse and HS2 was in three, three , Conservative election manifestos. I think we should be very sceptical of anything that appears in thier next manifesto.
The West Coast Mainline is virtually at capacity now , if any upgrade of it was contemplated, it would be very disruptive and expensive having to weave any works in with the working timetable.
We used to lead the world, we cannot now even lead ourselves.
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 4th October 2023 at 3:40 pm
Excellent news, the project barely made sense to start with; the initial costings were a table top exercise, no groundwork investigations were made until after the green light was given; these unaddressed costs then made the project spiral out of control. The lack of project governance has been startling from beginning to end.
William White
Wednesday 4th October 2023 at 6:54 pm
Corcoran's comments are utterly politically motivated and nothing to do with what passengers need. Starmer has not responded by saying his party would reverse this decision - he could have done straight away, he's had long enough to think about it. Had Starmer been in power he'd either carry on wasting billions or cancelled it himself, and we'd have heard not a murmur from Sam.

Yes we need a better rail network with pleasant staff, clean trains, loos that work, edible food that is fairly priced and so on. But we can already get to London and Birmingham very easily. In fact for many cross country journeys to east anglia for instance that's what you have to do - into London, get the tube, then come back out again. Glasgow Edinburgh and Cardiff aren't too bad. Even Bristol or Southampton are fairly straightforward - north south journeys are fine.

But Sheffield? Nottingham? Derby? Awful cramped trains, slow services. Leicester, 90 miles away? Change twice. Ridiculous.

HS2 should never of got off the ground and the money wasted on it is horrendous.
Raymond Walker
Wednesday 4th October 2023 at 6:55 pm
Brilliant! The country couldn't afford it and the eccentric talking from the Northern Power House hadn't helped. They talked about it levelling up the North. How? There is capacity on our lines, but not enough platforms at Piccadilly to terminate. Start there so that trains don't wait outside the station for a slot.
It is manufacturing that needs to happen to keep Northerners in work and easy travel corridors around the North that has always been needed. Open the Woodhead route to Hull perhaps?
Jon Williams
Thursday 5th October 2023 at 7:38 am
Plans to phase out the sale of cigarettes in England will be the "biggest public health intervention in a generation", Rishi Sunak has said.

The PM told the BBC there was "no safe level of smoking" when asked about restricting people's right to choose.

His plan seeks to raise the legal age of smoking every year by a year so that eventually no-one can buy tobacco.

Tory MPs will be allowed a free vote while Labour indicated it would back the policy.

Better than wasting money on getting to London quicker !
Vince Chadwick
Thursday 5th October 2023 at 7:54 am
What an absolute shambles. An appalling testament to Broken Britain.

What should have been a vital piece of visionary infrastructure to join up our London centric economy and spread the wealth, had we had the commitment to actually do it. It was appallingly managed, cut back, then halted in its tracks leaving a very expensive not-much-use piece of railway as a permanent testament to the shambolic Tories.

Other countries just get on and build their new railways. In mainland Europe short haul flying is pretty much a thing of the past as a result.

We come up with excellent carefully considered plans, then find lots of reasons why it can't be done.

I despair!
Stuart Redgard
Thursday 5th October 2023 at 8:26 pm

I agree with you. It was about increasing capacity and not reducing time.
In the late 90’s / early 00’s I worked on the implementation of PUG1 (The Modernisation of the West Coast Main Line) which was also about increasing capacity. When Railtrack went into administration in Oct 2001, this project was over budget and late. We were once world leaders in engineering projects. Now both mine and 'Michael Hesseltines' opinion is that we are the laughingstock of the world.

The cancellation off HS2 north of Birmingham is today's equivalent of the implementation of the "Beeching Report" during the 1960's.

I can only assume that the nay sayers may finally admit they got it wrong in about 30 to 40 years time, if ever at all!
Pete Taylor
Friday 6th October 2023 at 10:37 am
As I understand it the (cancelled because it didn’t work) APT Advanced Passenger Trains were to be built in 14 car sets. The current Pendalino trains are a maximum of 11 cars (some were even shorter when delivered).
Given that HS2 North will now never happen as President Sunak has already authorised the sale of the compulsory purchased land along the route; is it not an option to put extra cars on the existing train sets, thereby increasing capacity?
Vince Chadwick
Friday 6th October 2023 at 11:57 am
...And worse than cancelling HS2, Sunak does not intend to protect the route but is to sell of the land earmarked for HS2 immediately, so this ludicrous unilateral decision can not be reversed by a future sane administration. That's just spiteful 'salting of the earth' by this anti-rail PM.

Every major infrastructure project has its nay-sayers, but three minutes after the project is finished we're all using the facility and wondering how we ever got on without it (think Crossrail, HS1, Channel Tunnel etc).
Vince Chadwick
Saturday 7th October 2023 at 7:25 am
Pete Taylor, APT was cancelled because it was put into service by BR under government pressure long before it was developed enough to be reliable. Rather than investing in developing it here where it was invented, the Tilting Train technology was sold to the Italians and they DID develop it. The high speed Pendolinos that revolutionised services on the West Coast Main Line today are the result. We bought the technology back, fully developed, from the Italians. APT also suffered from a 'not invented here' attitude of senior BR engineers to the aerospace technology the train featured.

There are close parallels here between HS2 and APT. Both superb ideas, which we are good at. Neither were carried through to success here. Why do we lack the skills and vision to see stuff though and reap the rewards?
Vince Chadwick
Sunday 8th October 2023 at 5:41 pm
The implications of Sunak's ludicrous act are serious and far reaching for any future infrastructure projects in UK. Construction companies have seen their hard-won (through competitive tender) contracts summarily terminated by Sunak with no political mandate. It is against what was in his manifesto, and indeed is not in accordance with the wishes of many Tory MPs. He just did it off his own bat.

So what confidence will construction companies have to bid for any future major public sector projects? At the very least they will pile in loads of contingency cost to cover such possible arbitrary cancellation part way through the project (making such project from now on very much more expensive for the taxpayer). And many will simply decline to bid for the work.

Well done Sunak!
Pete Taylor
Monday 9th October 2023 at 6:23 am
@ Vince Chadwick, you have not addressed the point I made: APT was planned as 14 car sets, If Pendalino was in 14 car sets then the lack of capacity would be immediately addressed. All the current station stops platforms are long enough to accommodate them.
Unfortunately HS2 running North of Crewe on existing lines will need two train sets coupled, which will not fit into Piccadilly (or Wilmslow) and HS2 can only run at 110mph rather than the current Pendalino speed!
Vince Chadwick
Monday 9th October 2023 at 9:15 am
Pete Taylor, I addressed your assertion that APT was cancelled "because it didn't work".
As for APT having 14 cars, indeed it did - but 2 of them were power cars that carried no passengers. Despite being 11 cars, APT had only 536 seats compared to a Pendolino's 589 as Pendolino carries its power equipment under the coaches. There's more to train seating capacity than the number of cars.
Many station platforms on the West Coast main Line were lengthened to accommodate 11 car Pendolino sets (including Wilmslow), and for many of those the local geography makes further lengthening impossible or impractical, so 11 car Pendolinos are likely to remain the limit on the conventional rail network.
HS2 platforms, obviously, are planned to accommodate full formation HS2 train lengths.
Alan Brough
Monday 9th October 2023 at 11:45 am
Vince Chadwick raises two interesting points. The first when he urges us to wonder how we ever got on without the likes of HS1, Crossrail, Channel Tunnel etc.
I travel pretty extensively about the UK and Europe but I’ve never yet used the Channel Tunnel or Crossrail. Why? Purely because geographically they don’t have much relevance for the vast majority of people living North of Birmingham.

The second interesting point is the concern that investors / Developers / Constructors might be deterred from undertaking large infrastructure projects in the future. I’m sure I can’t be alone in being thoroughly angry at the way in which both the cost and the completion date for the HS2 project were allowed to drift hopelessly out of control putting taxpayers in the invidious position of playing “Stick or Twist”

I’m certain that the money can be better invested in other projects but only if the contractors have their collective feet held to the flames on delivery.
Pete Taylor
Monday 9th October 2023 at 4:30 pm
Vince Chadwick, HS2 press releases state that their trains will comprise 8 cars and will carry 550 passengers. They say that when they run their trains on the existing lines North of Crewe they will have two sets coupled together- 16 cars, 1100 passengers. They will be limited to 110mph because they don’t tilt. So, they won’t fit in the platforms and even if they did the journey time would be longer than Pendalino!
As for project costings, every single projection has been massively underestimated; I see no reason why the latest Sunak figures will be any different.
Time to kill the whole project really.
Vince Chadwick
Monday 9th October 2023 at 6:40 pm
Alan, we live in Wilmslow and have used HS1, Eurostar, and the Channel Tunnel countless times to holiday by rail in mainland Europe. It is far more civilised if not as cheap as flying, and you get to see the places you pass through, albeit at up to 200mph! The journey becomes a highly enjoyable part of the holiday rather than several hours of hell (low cost flying and airports!) before the holiday starts. I highly recommend it. However, it has to be said that with an HS2 in place, connected to HS1 (as was originally planned) it would be better still. Northern business travellers would be able use sleeper trains, to wake up in their destination city, which was also something originally planned but dropped early on.

We have also travelled on Crossrail while on holiday in the capital, but yes, Crossrail was really constructed for the convenience of Londoners. And will we soon see the commencement of Crossrail 2 in our increasingly economically unbalanced country?

I absolutely share your anger at the government's (with state-owned DfT-sponsored HS2 Ltd) incompetent handling of costs and timescales. Maybe it was deliberate, to give them good reason to ditch it? Though actually I think they were both uninterested in it and incompetent in managing it.

I totally disagree that the money could be better invested in other projects. HS2 as designed was exactly what is needed to join-up and level-up the country. I understand your preference for east - west connectivity (which is undeniably greatly needed), but if Britain had no motorways, would the first one you'd build be the M62?
Vince Chadwick
Tuesday 10th October 2023 at 7:06 am
Pete Taylor - all the more reason HS2 should have included Glasgow and Edinburgh! If the line was built as other countries have and do, it would have been built all the way to Scotland from the outset!
Pete Taylor
Tuesday 10th October 2023 at 1:35 pm
Yes, Vince Chadwick but those “other countries” are much larger and less built-upon than the UK.

Add Your Comment

Share what you think of this story. In order to post a comment click here to sign in or register to become a member (it's free and will only take one minute).