Warrington Borough Council chiefs have welcomed the focus on Northern Powerhouse Rail in a new HS2 report – along with indications from the government that the Golborne Link could be dropped from the plans.
The Oakervee Review into HS2 has been presented to government this week, with a number of implications for Warrington.
The recommendations, which the government has largely accepted, include:
• Going ahead with construction for Phase 1 from London to the West Midlands, set to begin in April
• Reviving legislation to deliver Phase 2a (Birmingham to Crewe) – and to potentially deliver this at the same time as Phase 1
• Committing to Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds)
• Drawing up an integrated plan for rail in the North – particularly how Phase 2b and Northern Powerhouse Rail can be delivered effectively
• Looking at accelerating Northern Powerhouse Rail, including options for a new delivery body as part of a joined up ‘High Speed North’ approach
• Appointing a dedicated Minister with specific oversight of the project
Warrington Borough Council Leader, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “We have consistently acknowledged the potential benefits of high speed rail, and we welcome the Government’s commitment to deliver HS2 from Crewe to Manchester. We will continue to push for Northern Powerhouse Rail to be delivered in full, with new lines from Liverpool to Manchester – via Warrington – and Manchester to Leeds, with the line serving a hub station at Warrington Bank Quay.
“At the same time, we continue to make the case to Transport for the North, HS2 Limited, Network Rail and government to remove the Golborne Link from HS2. We have, over a number of years, strongly stressed that this link would not provide value for money, would bring limited benefits to the rail network, and would be damaging to the eastern part of our borough.
“We are now receiving clear indications from government – including the recent debate in the House of Commons, a radio interview given by the Secretary of State for Transport, and other informal discussions – that they are seriously considering the removal of the link.
“We urge them to take this decision as soon as possible, so that the concerns we have over the negative impact on east Warrington can be eliminated.”
The council’s Cabinet Member for highways, transportation and public realm, Cllr Hans Mundry, added: “We have read with interest the review into HS2 and the implications for Warrington. Our position remains the same – that we will continue to lobby for the inclusion of Warrington on a new Northern Powerhouse Line from Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington and Manchester Airport. We are urging the earliest possible decision to be made on this, and for the delivery of Crewe to Manchester to be quicker that the 2035-2040 timescale suggested by the Government.
“We have also been clear, from the outset, that while we are supportive of HS2, we will not support any plans which threaten significant disruption and environmental damage to our communities. That is why we are pleased that the government now appears to be listening and responding to our firm opposition to the Golborne Link and are strongly indicating that it may be dropped from the plans. We look forward to a formal announcement on this in the near future.”
The council will now be restating its case against the Golborne Link and ensuring that it is fully taken account of in the government’s planned review of HS2 Phase 2B and Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will be overseen by the National Infrastructure Commission.
Work will also continue to push for a high speed/capacity line from Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington and Manchester Airport, with Warrington Bank Quay station forming an integrated Hub Station between the West Coast Main Line and Northern Powerhouse Rail.