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Stop HS2 groups respond to the cancellation of the Golborne Link

“The cancellation of the ‘Golborne Link’ of HS2 is vindication of everything we’ve been saying for more than a decade – you can deliver more benefits to more people more quickly for less money without the massive environmental impact by upgrading existing infrastructure, reopening old lines and providing sustainable local transport.

“People want to get into and around the towns and cities where they live and work. They don’t need a fast train for fat cats that only ever got this far to prop up the powerful lobbyists from the construction industry” said John, spokesperson for Stop HS2 North.

At a local level, the scrapping of the ‘Golborne Spur’ avoids harm and negative impacts to ancient woodland and the general ecology. According to CPRE, sphagnum moss and other rare flora and fauna would have risked extinction [1]. Many local communities along the 13-mile route also faced substantial permanent impacts from the railway. For example, both villages of Hollins Green and Warburton would have been split in two. 

The opportunist spin is that cancelling the Golborne Link is a betrayal of the North, but it is absolutely not. If you genuinely wanted to level up the North, the very last thing you’d do is make it quicker and easier to travel to London which is where the economic benefits would go.

If you want to help the North of England, or indeed any region, you spend that money in those areas to develop transport systems that ordinary people will use every day. In many cases, local and regional infrastructure and links have been in desperate need of improvement and investment for decades.

John added, “For a small percentage of the cost of HS2 you can replace 11 miles of missing track between Skipton and Colne and reopen the Woodhead tunnels, which gives you 2 new lines across the Pennines, and that is surely what a Northern Powerhouse is all about.”

Alan, a spokesperson for HS2 Rebellion said, “The original plan for HS2 has changed immeasurably from what was on the table 10 years ago – after scrapping the Golborne Link, the cancellation of the Birmingham-Leeds leg and the Heathrow Spur, along with the shelving of the HS1 link – one has to wonder what HS2 is for? And does it represent what was originally voted for?

“It is quite staggering to see so many fundamental changes being made to a £100billion+ mega-project at such a late stage and with so little explanation or alternative. Once again HS2 seem to be making it up as they go along – at tremendous cost to the taxpayer, local communities, and our environment.

“Now that working from home is established and will continue to reduce the numbers of long-distance and city commuters [2], you have to ask why this government is hell bent on going ahead with such an environmentally damaging white elephant? The answer, of course, is that a select group of people are going to make a lot of money out of it and that has always been the only real reason for building HS2.”

While HS2 continues to cost the planet both financially and environmentally, a group of activists are now into their fifth week underground in tunnels in Swynnerton, Staffordshire, resisting HS2’s attempts to cut down the woodland.

We also await a judge’s ruling – the first of its kind – on a mega-injunction, which has been described as “an affront to democracy”. HS2 is seeking a route-wide injunction to criminalise anyone who sets foot in an area covering approximately 33 square miles, which will last for 2 decades.

[1] The countryside charity, CPRE. A win for countryside campaigners as harmful HS2 route is scrapped!

[2] The Evening Standard (8 June 2022), said the change to London office life is “here to stay” reporting that “79% of London staff said working from home had been positive” and “61% of London workers say they now work from home at least one day a week”. Almost two-thirds of Londoners are hybrid working in post-Covid capital.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Martin Sloman

    If we are going to celebrate the cancellation of this section of route, it might be an idea to tell people what it is and the significance of its removal, which this article, in its euphoria, neglects to mention.

    The Spur is a section of HS2, which runs from Tatton (where the spur to Manchester departs) to the classic West Coast Main Line just south of Wigan and near the town of Golborne. It crosses the Manchester Ship Canal and Mersey Flood Plain on a long high level viaduct near Rixton.

    The purpose of the Spur is to allow HS2 trains to connect to Scotland and places such as Wigan, Preston, Lancaster and Carlisle on route. The implication of its removal is to require HS2 trains serving these places to travel via Crewe and a congested double track section of the West Coast Main Line from Crewe via Winsford and Hartford to Weaver Junction (where trains to Runcorn and Liverpool branch off).

    One of the main purposes of HS2 is to remove high speed trains from the classic network, so increasing its capacity for passenger and freight services. Clearly, removing the Spur does the reverse of that and we would end up with a much diminished service to Scotland and no release of capacity for freight services from and to the Port of Liverpool.

    The removal of the Spur is in response to the Union Connectivity Review, which has drawn the conclusion that it does little to improve services to Scotland. However, the whole point, missing from this article, is that alternatives need to be assessed.

    One of those alternatives is to omit the Golborne connection to the East Coast Main Line and continue the Spur northwards to the east of Wigan to join the WCML at Preston. That would mean more railway but would by-pass sections of the WCML with restricted capacity and reduce times to Scotland. I doubt this alternative would appeal to Stop HS2 and Wigan would not be happy either.

    Another alternative is to upgrade the existing WCML north of Crewe. Restoring (and introducing) four tracks would increase capacity to Weaver Junction although journey times to Scotland would be significantly greater than under the previous proposal.

    A third possibility is to make use of the HS2 branch from Tatton to Warrington (Bank Quay Low Level), which is proposed in the Integrated Rail Plan as a means of directly serving both Warrington and Liverpool by means of dedicated high speed infrastructure. That would have the effect of freeing up capacity north of Crewe and would allow for a later phase to extend the route west of Warrington toward Scotland.

    I guess that, in environmental terms, the second option is the best due to it following the existing route rather than cutting across farmland and woodland. It would also remove the indirect routing via Tatton for London to Liverpool services. However, the third option would form part of a Northern Powerhouse Rail route from Liverpool to Manchester via Manchester Airport.

    In my opinion, the ‘do nothing’ option should not even be considered.

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