Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps: 19 February, 2021
Britain may have been in lockdown for much of the past year, but it’s been full steam ahead for HS2. After the new railway was given the green light by the Government last February, an army of more than 15,000 workers and more than 500 apprentices have made great progress building the line. And last week, the Bill approving Phase 2a between the West Midlands and Crewe was given Royal Assent.
This is a historic milestone for HS2, the first new north-south railway line in this country since the Victorian era. Although Phase 2a is shorter than the other sections of HS2, it illustrates the ambitious scope of the railway to spread the benefits of improved transport links right across the north.
First, it will create around 5,000 jobs as our economy builds back after Covid, and a further 140 permanent jobs at a new maintenance base near Stone in Staffordshire. It will offer a wealth of contract opportunities for local businesses, supporting growth and regeneration in Crewe and throughout Cheshire and Staffordshire.
Secondly, it will significantly boost capacity and reduce journey times for millions of passengers. Phase 2a will carry six long distance, high speed services per hour. Currently, the quickest service between Crewe and London Euston is 90 minutes. When finished, the new line will slash that time to just 56 minutes.
Unlocking benefits throughout the North
But to appreciate the true potential of the new services, you have to look beyond Crewe. A long way beyond. Because HS2 trains won’t just use the high speed network. They will carry on and join the existing rail network to provide direct services to Liverpool, Warrington, Preston, Wigan, Carlisle and Glasgow. Passengers in all these places will therefore enjoy faster, more comfortable and more reliable journeys. And there are further benefits. The new railway will unlock valuable capacity on the West Coast mainline, freeing up space for more commuter and freight trains.
Environmental works along the route to Crewe will begin immediately, with full construction expected to begin on this section by 2024. As part of Phase 2a, 78 hectares of native broadleaved woodland will be planted, and over 13.5 hectares of existing ancient woodland will be freed of invasive species.
Early this year, we will publish our Integrated Rail Plan, outlining how HS2 can dovetail with existing infrastructure improvements and Northern Powerhouse Rail to bring the benefits of high speed rail to the whole of the north.
Attaining Royal Assent for Phase 2a is a great way to start 2021. It means HS2 is now a reality for the north, promising better journeys, more jobs and a brighter future for communities across the Northern Powerhouse. This vital scheme is at the heart of the Government’s plans to build back better from the pandemic, and tackle the North-South economic gap which has divided our country for too long.