The Government has axed the proposed link from the High Speed 2 Phase 2b Crewe-Manchester line to the West Coast main line (WCML) at Golborne, south of Wigan.
The connection would allow HS2 trains to bypass part of the WCML and continue to serve Scotland, but the Union Connectivity Review, led by Network Rail Chairman Sir Peter Hendy recommended creation of a connection joining the route further north instead in its final report of November 2021.
Sir Peter argued that the 13-mile-long Golborne Link does not resolve all capacity constraints between Crewe and Preston, and recommended upgrading the WCML north of Crewe and exploration of other options to the link. There have also been calls by MPs in the area for its cancellation.
Announcing the decision, HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said: ‘Ahead of the government’s response to the Union Connectivity Review, we can confirm the government will look again at alternatives which deliver similar benefits to Scotland as the Golborne link, so long as these deliver for the taxpayer within the £96 billion envelope allocated for the Integrated Rail Plan. 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.’
However, although the Government intends to remove the Golborne Link from the High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill after its second reading, it says it will protect the route should evaluation confirm it as the best option.
Construction of the Golborne Link was due to start in the early 2030s, with completion towards the end of that decade or the start of the 2040s.
A supplement to the January 2022 HS2 Crewe-Manchester scheme strategic outline business case outlining the implications of cutting the Golborne Link will be published before the Crewe-Manchester Bill’s second reading.