Rail firms slam ‘hugely disappointing’ decision to axe £3bn HS2 Golborne Link

The link will be removed from the HS2 Phase 2b Bill despite it being included in the Integrated Rail Plan.

07 June 2022

Rail industry bodies reacted with fury after the Government scrapped a “vital” planned £3 billion connection between HS2 and the West Coast Main Line.

The decision to axe the 13-mile Golborne Link in Greater Manchester will lead to a “bottleneck”, according to a joint statement from the Railway Industry Association, Rail Freight Group and High Speed Rail Group.

The link will be removed from the HS2 Phase 2b Bill despite it being included in the Integrated Rail Plan for transforming the rail network in the North and the Midlands.

It would have left the high-speed line between Crewe and Manchester and cut through Trafford to join the West Coast Main Line to the south of Wigan.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said the Government will explore alternatives for how HS2 trains will reach Scotland.

He announced the decision on Monday night, just 30 minutes before the outcome of the confidence vote in Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Conservative Party was revealed.

In their joint statement, the three railway industry bodies said: “It is hugely disappointing to discover that, on a day when much political attention was focused elsewhere, the Government confirmed that the Golborne Link is to be removed from the HS2 project.

“Only six months ago, the Golborne Link was included in the Integrated Rail Plan, as well as the HS2 Phase 2b Bill.

“The link has been provided for in the budget for HS2 and is needed to allow adequate capacity on the national rail network to fulfil its vital function of handling the nation’s longer distance movements of both passengers and freight.

“Without this connection, a bottleneck will be created north of Crewe on the West Coast Main Line, which in turn will negatively impact outcomes for passengers, decarbonisation and levelling up.”

The trio warned of “heightened uncertainty” for rail businesses working on HS2 and communities living near the planned line.

They went on: “Given the Government has now decided that it does not wish to proceed with the Golborne Link, it is absolutely essential it confirms as quickly as possible how ministers intend to protect the benefits of HS2 investment, and does so without delay.

“Such an important, strategic question of how HS2 services connect into Scotland cannot be left open or uncertain.”

The announcement comes six months after the Government dropped its plan to extend HS2 to Leeds.

Construction on the Golborne Link was due to start in the early 2030s, with the connection expected to open towards the end of that decade or in the early 2040s.

Mr Stephenson said: “HS2 is a once-in-a-lifetime project that will transform travel across the entire UK as we know it and serve millions of people for hundreds of years to come, and it’s absolutely vital that we get this right from the outset.

“Removing this link is about ensuring that we’ve left no stone unturned when it comes to working with our Scottish counterparts to find a solution that will best serve the great people of Scotland.”

Plans for the Golborne Link faced fierce criticism from MPs, councillors and local residents.

The Government-commissioned Union Connectivity Review, published in November 2021, said “emerging evidence” suggested an alternative connection between HS2 and the West Coast Main Line “could offer more benefits” and “reduce journey times by two to three minutes”.

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