The routes for Phase 2 of High Speed 2 (HS2) between Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands have been confirmed by the government.
More from: £6.6bn HS2 contracts awarded
The confirmation came on the same day that the government announced the winners of £6.6bn worth of civils contracts to design and build the first phase of the rail route between London and Birmingham.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling is today also introducing the Phase 2a High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill to the House of Commons, kicking off the legislative procedure to get the powers to build the line from the West Midlands to Crewe. A third hybrid Bill for phase 2b will be brought forward in 2019.
The government confirmed the majority of the Phase 2b route, from Crewe to Manchester in the West, and from Birmingham to Leeds in the East, in November last year. However, there were seven outstanding sections that needed to be consulted on and agreed.
The government has now clarified the route on six of these seven sections. These new clarifications, together with the parts of the route previously agreed, will now form the basis for the Phase 2b Hybrid Bill.
There are three main changes to the Phase 2b route that have been revealed. These are:
1. The route will run across Cheshire salt caverns
Concerns have been raised over a 26km length of route in the Middlewich-Northwich area of Cheshire. This section of the route passes above the Cheshire salt caverns. There have been fears the complex ground conditions could increase the construction cost of a new viaduct.
But the Department for Transport (DfT), which published the confirmations in its report, Phase 2b Route Decision, has kept the 2016 proposed alignment. It said the route avoided ”direct interference with existing brining and gas storage infrastructure and would minimise the risk of subsidence from ground movements in the brine caverns.”
It said alternative routes would still encounter the same problems and not provide for a suitable link to the West Coast Main Line. To mitigate the issues, the DfT said it had been working with specialist consultants to understand geotechnical risks and planned to carry out further investigations in the area before the Hybrid Bill is deposited.
2. The route will not tunnel under East Midlands Airport
The route will now follow the eastern side of the A42 more closely to the west of Kegworth in a 12m deep cutting. This will avoid a tunnel under the East Midlands Airport, which was considered too risky. It will also avoid a crossing over the A42.
Despite the route being lengthened by 1.3km, and trains having to travel at a lower speed (275kph), the DfT said the overall journey time would only increase by around 55s.
3. Missing Meadowhall and a spur to Sheffield city centre
One of the most controversial of the decisions made by the government is the route from Derbyshire to West Yorkshire, the so called M18 / Eastern route.
The original 2013 route took introduced a new station on the HS2 main line close to the Meadowhall retail complex, to the north east of Sheffield. The new route will move the main north-south alignment more easterly over a 70km section of the line, building a 9.4km spur to connect HS2 trains into Sheffield city centre – providing a saving of around £1bn.
Speaking at a Commons transport select committee meeting in December last year, HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins said that Sheffield had been “without a doubt, the hardest of any solution”.
He explained that Sheffield City Council and the city’s chamber of commerce were strongly opposed to the Meadowhall route, preferring a city centre connection. He also said that there were strong objections to the size of the station to be built at the shopping centre hub. However, in February this year, MP for Doncaster North Ed Miliband called the saving “simply illusory”.
The main line South Yorkshire section of the route will go through the Dearne Valley, meaning 16 houses in Mexborough will have to be demolished.
More consultations to come
Three areas are still being consulted on including moving the eastern leg rolling stock depot and creating a Crewe hub. The third to be consulted on is the scope and methodology for the Phase 2b Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA).
The hybrid Bill for Phase 2b is planned to be deposited in Parliament in 2019 so that the rail line can open in 2033.
Summary of the confirmed route changes:
- Relocating the Western Leg Rolling Stock Depot (RSD) – moving the RSD from a site near Golborne to a site north of Crewe between the A530 Nantwich Road and the West Coast Main Line (WCML) near Wimboldsley
- Changing the alignment over a 26km length of route in the Middlewich-Northwich area of Cheshire, raising the route as it passes above the Cheshire salt caverns to avoid brining and gas storage infrastructure
- Changing the alignment of the route on the approach to Manchester Piccadilly station to improve the operational efficiency of the station and avoid direct residential impacts and a primary school
- Changing the route near East Midlands Airport, so the route follows the eastern side of the A42 more closely, avoids a tunnel under the airport, does not cross the A42, and reduces the impacts on some communities
- Locating the route through Long Eaton on a high level viaduct through the town immediately adjacent to the existing low-level rail corridor
- The re-alignment of the route between Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. The route in South Yorkshire will be the route consulted in 2016 which in part follows the M1 and M18, serves Sheffield City Centre via a spur from the HS2 line and includes provision for a northern junction allowing trains to run between Sheffield and Leeds city centres using HS2
HS2 Phase 2 timeline
- Today – 2018: Design development and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- 2018: Expected consultation on working draft EIA, EqIA and potential Route Refinements
- 2019: Phase 2b hybrid Bill deposit
- 2022: Royal Assent
- 2023: Construction begins
- 2033: Operations begin