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NCE Live News Updates Monday 17 March: Higgins calls for HS2 to reach North quicker - but drops link to HS1

HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins has set out his plan to get High Speed to the north six years earlier than planned with a hub station at Crewe.

HS2 highlights:

  • Higgins calls for construction of phase two north of Birmingham to begin six years earlier than planned from a new station at Crewe
  • Government backs Higgins’ recommendation that a link with HS1 be dropped; further studies will be carried out
  • Further work also to be done on expanding the scope of the planned Euston terminus
  • Budget needs to remain at £43bn, says Higgins

4pm: Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has commissioned a study into David Higgins’ proposal to bring forward work on the northern section of HS2.

Project chairman Higgins today called for the rail line to link London with Crewe as early as 2027 (see 11am below).

McLoughlin said: “Sir David’s report proposes to deliver benefits, particularly benefits to the Midlands and the North, more quickly.

“The report sets out a clear proposal to accelerate construction so that the Crewe section of Phase Two would be completed by 2027, not 2033, and to build a new integrated hub station at Crewe.

“Therefore, I am commissioning HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to undertake work to allow both these proposals to be considered in detail as part of my consideration of the public consultation responses to Phase Two.”

McLoughlin said he would be removing the link between HS1 and HS2 from the High Speed Rail Bill and seeking more detail of alternative measures.

He also backed Higgins’ proposal to more ambitiously redevelop London’s Euston Station.

“It is a significant opportunity to maximise the economic potential of the line and regenerate a site that has been neglected,” said the minister.


3pm: Consultancy WSP has backed HS2 chairman David Higgins’ proposal for a new transport hub at Crewe.

Higgins said in a report this morning that the rapid rail link should reach Crewe in 2027 – just a year after the London-to-Birmingham line would open under current plans.

WSP head of infrastructure Duncan Symonds said: “Aside from the obvious benefits there is the added bonus for freight of diverting high speed trains away from the congested Lichfield-to-Crewe section of the West Coast Mainline.

“To maximise potential, local plans for development around the hub and regional transport links would need to be expedited.”

He added that plans for a more modern station at Euston were also welcome.

“Redeveloping Euston is also an obvious win – there are many examples of improved transport infrastructure unlocking wider economic and social benefits; you just have to look at Kings Cross and London Bridge Quarter to see the impact it can have.”


1pm: Plans for the HS2 line to link directly to HS1 and allow trains to run from Birmingham to Paris have been put on hold.

Project chairman David Higgins asked for more work to be done to find a better solution as the original plan would have cost £700M, largely for bridge and tunnel work in north London.

“It is the most cost-effective solution for linking the two networks,” said Higgins in today’s report (see updates below).

“But it is an imperfect compromise because of the effect it would have on existing passenger and freight services and the local community.

“It would also use up HS2 capacity that could be better used on services to more areas, such as North Wales.”

He added: “The HS2 platforms at Euston will be a short distance from those at HS1, and one stop on the Underground. That is the equivalent of transferring from one terminal to another at Heathrow.”


12.30pm: The £21.4bn budget for Phase One of HS2 can not yet be reduced, David Higgins has warned.

The project’s chairman said in his report published today that uncertainty remained over how long it would take to get the laws in place to allow the rapid rail link’s construction.

“Additional time spent debating the legislation will translate into extra uncertainty about the construction timescale – and therefore about its cost,” he said.

That is why, in considering the first phase, I consider that it would be irresponsible to reduce the substantial contingency included. I believe that the resulting Phase One budget of £21.4bn, plus £3 billion for trains, is enough to deliver Phase One.


11.30am: Civils contractors have backed David Higgins’ calls for a redevelopment of Euston Station and a quicker connection to the North.

The High Speed 2 (HS2) promoter’s chairman made the statements in his report published this morning (see below updates).

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) external affairs director Alasdair Reisner said: “HS2 will be central to Britain’s transport infrastructure for generations to come.

“We particularly support proposals to speed up delivery of the second phase, helping to drive growth in northern England.

“Ceca believes that proposals for a more substantial redevelopment of Euston station better reflect the ambition of the project to become one of the nation’s major transport hubs.”

Reisner added that HS2 should not be built at the expense of other schemes.

“Instead, it should be seen as a foundational to the diverse portfolio of transport and energy projects we will need to construct if our national infrastructure is to meet the demands of the 21st century,” he said.

“For this reason we welcome Sir David Higgins’ demand for additional focus on delivering wider transport in the North, above and beyond those provided by HS2.”


11.15am: David Higgins has also thrown his weight behind a major reworking of London’s Euston Station.

In his report on the rapid rail project published this morning, the HS2 chairman called for exploration of a level deck design to improve the look and impact of the station.

“I propose the government should look at a more comprehensive redevelopment of Euston – a solution that could truly stand the test of time and allow the station to join St Pancras and King’s Cross as an iconic driver of local regeneration whose beneficial effects will be felt for generations,” said Higgins.

“The geography, layout and context of Euston make it a particularly difficult site, and I understand the reasons behind the current scheme.

“However, an alternative proposal that the government could consider is a level deck design, which would enable access from one side of the station to the other, better connecting the station to the local area and the community.

“It could also create the potential for considerable over-site development, which could combine housing, retail and commercial development.”


11am: HS2 chairman David Higgins has called for the £43bn scheme to reach the North quicker.

In his HS2 Plus report, published today, Higgins called for the rapid rail line to link the capital with Crewe by 2027.

Current plans would see phase one from London to Birmingham open in 2026, with phase two from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds opening six years later. 

Higgins said: “I propose the government should accelerate phase two as soon as possible to take the line 68.8km further north than planned in Phase One, to a new transport hub at Crewe, which could be completed by 2027, six years earlier than planned.

“It is the right strategic answer, and not just for the area around Crewe: it would also deliver the benefits of HS2 – in terms of better services to the North – much sooner.”


9am: Contractors are sought for a £100M road scheme in Wales.

The Welsh government advertised the Caernarfon Bontnewydd Bypass project in OJEU this morning.

It is looking for a contractor to provide design, environmental and construction services for the 10km highway.

The 10-year job will include seven bridges and 11 culverts. Contractors have until 14 April to express an interest.


Readers' comments (3)

  • An internal UK HS2 line without a direct link to HS1 and the European HS network is a waste of money and effort.

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  • Perhaps HS2 should only go to Brent Cross and to the Trafford shopping centre in Manchester to save money.
    Crazy of course.
    Yet this is exactly what is proposed for Sheffield with a station an additional half an hour away from the city centre adjacent to the Meadowhall shopping centre. The time savings created by HS2 are almost completely negated by this location. There is an existing dis-used rail route right through the Sheffield centre with lower cost and higher economic benefit.

    'Dear Mr Higgins, what shall I do? I wanted to go to London but I ended up in Crewe'.

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  • Alan Sim

    There is always the risk with these projects that the shiny end, ie London, will benefit first and the end point (lets generalise and call this - the North) never actually reaches the intended target due to time, cost or governmental changes.
    One solution would be to start at the intended target and build south. There is more chance of the scheme reaching fruition if the link with London is the last piece in the puzzle, whether its linked with HS1 or not.
    Or is that just me being cynical?

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