There is currently no timetable for when the Department for Transport (DfT) will ask HS2 Ltd to start work on alternatives to the Golborne link, and no outline of how this work will be undertaken, according to bosses of HS2 and DfT.
The 21km Golborne link or ‘spur’ was part of HS2 which split from the mainline before Manchester Airport and connected to the West Coast Main Line (WCML), where trains could continue to Scotland. Its aim was to reduce journey times and increase the frequency of trains from London and Birmingham to Glasgow while freeing up capacity on the WCML so that it could carry more freight.
The DfT removed the link from the HS2 Phase 2b bill in June, despite warnings from rail industry executives who said it was ‘vital’ and engineers who said its removal would ‘hinder the value’ of the UK high-speed network. Additionally, the DfT Accountant’s own assessment stated that HS2 Phase 2b’s value for money fell into the “poor” category without the Golborne link.
When withdrawing, the DfT said it was “committed to leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding the right solution to bring HS2 trains to Scotland”. However, five months later the heads of HS2 Ltd and the DfT admitted that no work had started to develop an alternative and there was no timetable for its launch.
Speaking to the Transport Select Committee, DfT High Speed Rail Group Managing Director Clive Maxwell said: “We will be asking High Speed 2 to do development work to look at different options to deliver this type of link. No decision has been made on this. Asked about the timeline, he replied, “I don’t have one I can share at the moment.”
Asked about the options assessment and consultation process, Maxwell said: ‘The government has yet to release a set of plans or options and consult on them.
“When presenting plans for consultation, he must be very careful about how he does so to ensure that he does not create undue concern or harm to areas. He has to progress his work to a certain stage of readiness to be able to do it rather than create this kind of hassle.
HS2 Ltd managing director Mark Thurston added: “There are some options in [the Union Connectivity Review] which should feed into any work the Department orders us to do, as the existing link road from Golborne is backed up and, according to Clive, we need to be mindful of this when we start looking for alternatives.
Representing the constituencies that would be affected by the construction of the link, MP for Altrincham and Sale West and chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, campaigned against it for years, saying it was “expensive, damaging and unnecessary’, while Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols said it was ‘disastrous’ and accused the government of showing ‘utter disregard’ for the people of Warrington.
However, the DfT cited Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review as the reason for removing the Golborne link.
Elsewhere on HS2, the transport select committee heard that phase 1 activation work was over 95% complete. Work at Birmingham’s Curzon Street station is in a transitional phase, with the enabling works contractor wrapping up and the building construction contractor preparing to mobilise.
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