All change expected on HS2 Phase 2 with new Higgins plan.

Following speculation that the currently planned HS2 station at Toton Sidings in the East Midlands will be relocated elsewhere, a spokeswoman for HS2 Ltd has confirmed that the quango will publish a report on revisions for Phase 2 on October 27th. Stop HS2 have been officially told that the proposed link to the West Coast Mainline at Handsacre near Lichfield will remain, despite the fact that report is expected to recommend a new HS2 station should be added in Crewe, and that the connection to Crewe should form part of the Phase 1 construction plans.

The report, which will be the response from Sir David Higgins to the Phase 2 consultation which concluded in January, is not expected to contain the specific of any proposed route revisions, rather just broad statements without detailed maps. Maps outlining the detail of any route changes would come at a later date, with many commentators expecting this to be after the next General Election.

The speculation that Toton would not be chosen as the site for the East Midlands HS2 station was first raised by Anna Soubry MP last week, whose constituency the currently proposed station is in. In an online statement, the Conservative MP attempts to pin the blame for any potential station relocation on Broxtowe Borough Council, which is run by a Labour-Liberal Democrat Coalition, for proposing a housing development near the station site, but that proposal pre-dates the plans for the HS2 station.

The reality is that like much of the proposals for HS2, the plan to site an HS2 station at Toton made little sense at all. It was originally expected that any East Midlands HS2 station would be sited either at East Midlands Airport, or on a rail line between Nottingham and Derby. The decision to site the proposed station at Toton was a surprise, as it would not deliver connectivity to either city, in fact whilst HS2 Ltd claim the Toton station would deliver connectivity to Derby, their suggested way to get there is by taxi. As such it is now expected that the East Midlands station would be relocated to somewhere along the existing Derby-Nottingham railway line, but any such proposal would see HS2 sited through the Trent flood plain. Such a site would be more in line with the ethos we have already seen with the proposed ‘garden city’ near the HS2 Birmingham Airport station of HS2 promoting green belt development.

Green belt development would also be promoted with the expected announcement of a ‘Crewe Hub’ station, which would be sited to the south of the current Crewe station. The justification for this is that it is suggested that making Crewe into a ‘rail transport hub’ would promote development, despite the fact that being a ‘rail transport hub’ is the only reason Crewe is there in the first place. It is also expected that Higgins wants the connection to Crewe to be part of the Phase 1 construction plan. How that would be done is somewhat of a mystery, as it would be unrealistic to expect a full Parliamentary Bill for Phase 2 to be passed on such a timescale, whilst it would not seem possible to add this link as an amendment to the current Phase 1 Bill. The only realistic possibility if this were to be the plan would be to have a separate Parliamentary Bill just for the link to Crewe, which could go through Parliament at the same time as the current Phase 1 Bill.

It has been confirmed to Stop HS2 that the proposed temporary link from HS2 to the West Coast Mainline at Handsacre will still remain in the proposals after the report is announced on the 27th. The original idea of this link was only meant to be to carry ‘classic compatible’ trains running on after Phase 1 was completed, but whilst Phase 2 was still being built, as after Phase 2 was finished it would be redundant. Given this, you might expect that if the link to Crewe, where HS2 would link with the West Coast Mainline, were to be included in Phase 1, then the Handsacre link would not be needed. However, it seems this link will remain as a ‘booby prize’ for Stoke-on-Trent, which had been lobbying to get the mainline station instead of Crewe. The big question here would be is what sort of service could be expected, as the previous plans for HS2 called for the line to be running at capacity from day one, without any room for additional trains.

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:

“Whatever happens on the 27th September, it will be clear that the original plans for HS2 weren’t thought through properly. Changing the mess that is Phase 2 doesn’t change the fact that Phase 1 is still a complete mess, as is the entire concept of HS2.”

“HS2 was simply not designed properly from the outset, because HS2 was never thought through properly. David Higgins may want to tinker round the edges to try and make it not such a stupid idea, but whatever he does HS2 will still be a stupid idea, unjustifiable, unable to deliver on its’ promises and utterly incapable of coming in anywhere near budget. Any redesign is a half admission of the reality: that the whole thing should be scrapped, and we should actually have a proper analysis of what this country actually needs in terms of transport infrastructure, before billions are wasted on a white elephant vanity project which will only increase our woes.”

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