Higgins looks to bring HS2 construction forward

HS2 boss Sir David Higgins has continued his focus on the north of England, suggesting that the government builds the new high-speed railway to Crewe six years earlier than originally planned.

In new report set out today, Higgins has said HS2 needs to be better integrated with the existing network and planned rail improvement projects in the north.

The former Network Rail boss also recommended constructing a new hub interchange in Crewe rather than going ahead with existing proposals for a branch line into the city.

In London, Higgins has recommended a complete overhaul of Euston station by lowering the entire terminal and scrapping a link between HS2 and HS1.

The project would also involve rebuilding the Euston arch.

The preferred option would deliver the so-called Euston Cross plan which would see a new sub-surface HS2 line constructed with an east-west platform connecting the terminal with St Pancras King’s Cross.

Higgins said: “Phase One of High Speed Two needs to address the capacity challenge. Phase Two must address connectivity and therefore must be integrated with existing and future transport services and also looking to maximise the value added to the local and national economy.”

Following an official launch event of ‘HS2 PLUS’ in Manchester today, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin issued a statement backing the recommendations.

Asked about how HS2 will better integrate with the conventional network without losing the benefits of high-speed rail, Higgins said: “Well that’s a real challenge and we’ve got to look at how that works.

“Much of that is how the big interchanges work, so you have an interchange that connects conventional rail and tram into high speed rather than having everything going onto the high-speed line.”

There has been a widespread backing of the proposals by industry bodies.

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: “This report will help build confidence in the budget, delivery and benefits of HS2.

“The best way to keep a lid on costs is to move to the construction stage quickly and we would urge politicians on all sides of the House to get behind this important project.

Artist impression of Stoke International HS2 station.

Stoke had previously proposed building a HS2 station in the city and diverting the line away from Crewe.

“HS2 will connect eight of our ten largest cities and boost local economies along the route, and the proposed interchange at Crewe is particularly good news for the north.

“The North London line is a busy commuter route and it therefore makes sense to reconsider how we link to HS1. We would urge HS2 and the Department for Transport to come up with a workable alternative swiftly.”

Railway Industry Association (RIA) director Jeremy Candfield said: “The supply industry is ready to gear up to deliver this essential project, which will provide a major boost to jobs and skills, quite apart from the very real benefits to the nation as a whole.

“However, as Sir David emphasises, it is vital to supplier confidence, and therefore to deliverability and to the control of costs, that as much certainty as possible is provided as soon as possible. That means a clear programme, with cross-party support. We agree.”