Government scraps HS2 link to west coast line
UK ministers have axed plans for a £3 billion link between HS2 and the West Coast Main Line that would have allowed Scotland to be connected to the high speed service.
HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson made a brief statement on the decision to axe the 13-mile Golborne link near Manchester just before the result of Boris Johnson’s confidence vote was declared on Monday night.
It had been intended that the link would improve journey times and increase train frequency between London and Glasgow.
Critics said the link is needed to allow adequate capacity on the national rail network to fulfil its function of handling the nation’s longer distance movements of both passengers and freight. Removing it undermines the line’s value, said an industry group.
But a report from Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy found that the Golborne Link would fail to resolve “all the rail capacity constraints on the WCML between Crewe and Preston”.
Accordingly, Mr Stephenson said the government would be removing the Golborne link from the High-Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill after its second reading.
He insisted that “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.
“We will look at the potential for these alternatives to bring benefits to passengers sooner, allowing improved Scotland services from Manchester and Manchester Airport, as well as from Birmingham and London.
“HS2 trains will continue to serve Wigan and Preston, as well as Lancaster, Cumbria and Scotland.”
Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said: “Scrapping the link between the North West of England and Glasgow without any alternative plan is yet another nail in the coffin for faster journey times to Scotland.
“We have the opportunity to create an economic counterweight to London and the South East by linking the north of England and Scotland, but this Tory government are totally out of ideas. It’s not levelling up but levelling down.
“People in Scotland are stuck between two governments failing the railways – an SNP administration unable to get trains running on time, and a Conservative government breaking promise after promise, leaving Scots stuck in the slow lane for decades to come.”