When the team from Campaign for Rail and HS2 agreed the date of our February meeting, it was in the expectation that Royal Assent would have just been granted to the bill for Phase 1 of the new line.  This is the section from a rebuilt Euston to Birmingham Curzon and to join the Trent Valley line at Handsacre, north of Lichfield Trent Valley.  The parliamentary process has, however, been delayed by a few weeks as politicians have been preoccupied with Brexit.

However, ground investigations are already underway and contractors appointed.  At some sensitive sites, archaeological investigations are about to begin for which HS2 has its own staff.  Also underway is the relocating of wildlife such as newts.  New ponds for them are being constructed this spring, so that these are ready for moving the newts into in 2018.

Then the bulldozers will move in and tunnelling work also gets underway in earnest in the autumn of next year, for completion in 2023.  Track laying and electrification follow, with the first trains in 2026.  They will be part of the West Coast franchise to be awarded next year.

The first part of the second phase [2a], from Handsacre to Crewe is just a year behind.  So after only a year’s intensive use, the link north of Lichfield is likely to see only the one train an hour that will call at Stafford.  The rest of HS2 [2b] is from a triangular junction near Coleshill to Leeds and Church Fenton, near York, plus north from Crewe to Manchester and Golborne, near Wigan.  Last November, the property consultation and route refinement exercise for 2b began.  Most of the route was confirmed, but changes were proposed for seven stretches, including a longer viaduct at Kingsbury, south of Tamworth, past Measham and East Midlands Airport, plus a rethink for Sheffield and a parkway station in South Yorkshire.  By the end of this year, the route should be finalised, with a hybrid bill set before parliament before the end of 2019 and construction of Phase 2b is due to begin in 2022 or 2023, with trains running by 2033.

The Campaign for Rail team with HS2’s Jonathan Lord, Senior Engagement Manager for Phase 1, Conrad Jones, Area Manager for Phase 2b and Public Affairs Officer, Lee Marsham.                                            

Photo: Hugo Semner, HS2

16 February 2017

HS2, Brexit and Newts

CfR asked for an update on a link in north London to HS1.  Disappointingly, Camden Council is being funded to look at ways of making the walk between Euston and St. Pancras less unattractive, but we saw a glimmer of hope in that both stations, Curzon and Interchange are still planned to be built with international provision [passport checking, customs etc.].  Our campaign to ensure that the Washwood Heath site included HS2 use has been successful.  This was confirmed as HS2’s principal maintenance depot and the HS2 Control Centre.  As we have argued, there will still be land on the old Alsthom and DAF sites for other new industries.  We predict the HS2 presence will itself attract other hi-tech rail related businesses here, helping regenerate this part of Birmingham.  We asked that consideration be given to adding a chord from the classic line out to Water Orton to the HS2 Birmingham branch so that services such as the Plymouth - Edinburgh trains could use HS2 between Birmingham and York.

The rate of progress had noticeably increased since our last meeting with HS2 and when we next meet we expect to hear about the specification for the new trains, more on interchange between the West Midland stations and the extent to which HS2 will meet the Midlands Connect aspirations of improving travel between West and East Midlands.