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.

Andy Brown
Tuesday 26th September 2023 at 2:36 pm
The North West will lose out once again.
Chris Templar
Tuesday 26th September 2023 at 4:28 pm
I, and thousands of others, I am sure, fully support our MP, Esther McVey, in her continued and vocal opposition to the need for HS2 and the detriment it is going to cause to the environment of our beautiful county.
It is not as if we do not already have a rail system that allows access to the capital in a matter of 120 minutes or so. What difference will a journey of 20 minutes less make to anyone's lives?
The revised cost figures are mind boggling when the funds would be much better spent on improving the existing rail infrastructure, the NHS and hospitals, schools and a host of other concerns in the North West, including the gross scandal of the continued withholding, by HM Treasury and successive Chancellors, of the full compensation payments, required legally by the Parliamentary Ombudsman some 15 years ago to be made and now long outstanding, to the policyholders of the former Equitable Life Assurance Society.
The Prime Minister is quite right to have reservations about the benefits to be gained by the expenditure of an increasing amount of tax payers funds on this unnecessary project.
Vince Chadwick
Tuesday 26th September 2023 at 7:05 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.
David Carey
Thursday 28th September 2023 at 10:13 am
Ditto, Chris Templar.
Andy Brown
Thursday 28th September 2023 at 1:53 pm
Despite what the media tell you - HS2 was never about reducing journey times - that was a by product of it.

The objective is to build capacity - stopping passenger services and freight would use the existing WCML and the express trains would not be held up by them as they would be on the HS2 line.
Graham Jackson
Thursday 28th September 2023 at 2:32 pm
@Andy Brown. So what you’re saying is the UK government sold the idea on train speed times, but in reality it was always about capacity.

The fact that many people have seen through this rubbish and yet we are challenged about our integrity?
Vince Chadwick
Thursday 28th September 2023 at 5:08 pm
HS2 was never 'sold' on speed. From the outset it has been about capacity - 70% (yes, 70%!) of the capacity of the West Coast Main Line, the Midland Main Line, and the East Coast Main Line would be released by moving the high speed non-stop trains off them (where everything else has to get out of their way) onto the new railway. That is what would happen if it was built in full as designed.

Without that capacity release of HS2 it is not possible to increase the frequency of trains on such lines as the Cambrian Coast and the Mid Cheshire, as there are currently no paths for them once they meet the main line. And without HS2 there isn't a hope of allowing rail freight to grow as it desperately wants to (removing HGVs from the roads). And without HS2 we will have to build more motorways at great environmental and land-take cost.

It is entirely the media who have pushed the "£billions being spent to save 20 minutes to Birmingham" drivel. Sadly, the government (or HS2 Ltd. themselves at first) did not push back against this misinformation so the notion that this is a vanity project for the benefit of a few wealthy businessmen is firmly rooted in many people's minds. And of course, it sells newspapers.

Latterly, HS2 Ltd. has now woken up to the false public image of their project (a bit late!), and Sunak's government is fine with the misinformation as it fits their agenda.
Alan Brough
Friday 29th September 2023 at 8:11 pm
I’ll say it again.

HS2 was the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

We are desperately lacking East-West connectivity (rail and road.)

The UK’s biggest freight port is Felixstowe. The main NDC’s ( NATIONAL Distribution Centres) are located in the East and West Midlands. We need to invest heavily in getting cargo from port to NDC’s quickly.

My business runs over 550 trailer units across Europe. Most of them are “Swap-Bodies” and can be carried by road or rail. We move huge volumes by rail from Austria and Germany to Rotterdam but we currently have no options to move volume quickly from Holland to UK other than by road.

People assume that cargo enters UK via the Chunnel and lines up nicely with London and therefore HS2 will bring huge benefit. This is not the case. Most freight volume enters UK via North Sea Ports and unless we invest in the infrastructure serving East / West movement we will continue to be a logistics backwater and will have no place in the Technological Revolution that is set to unfold over the next ten years
David Carey
Sunday 1st October 2023 at 6:20 am
Very interesting information Alan!