How will HS2 affect Crewe and the rest of Cheshire?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 January 2016
HS2 promises to bring a 21st century railway revolution to Crewe and utterly transform its economic prospects and those of the surrounding region
The HS2 rail link will cut journey times and will bring thousands of jobs, boost the population and attract billions of pounds of investment to the region. The line is due to open in 2027 and will carry 225mph trains from Birmingham to a new station at Crewe which – the people behind the plans say – will connect the new high speed line to improved transport links across the north of England.
Government figures estimate that building an HS2 Superhub at Crewe will create more than 120,000 jobs and over 100,000 new homes over 25 years, the region’s economy will be boosted by £10bn a year by 2040 and there will be greater demand for skilled workers.
And the benefits will be felt not just in Crewe, but across Cheshire. Cheshire East Council Leader Councillor Michael Jones said: ‘This is massive news and a real game changer – not just for Crewe and Cheshire East, but for Stoke, North Staffordshire and the region as a whole.
‘This is not simply about high speed – it is crucially about capacity and connectivity. The benefits to Crewe and the surrounding area would be massive in terms of jobs and the economy – it’s a real once-in-a-generation opportunity, the like of which Cheshire East has not seen before.
‘However, as we have consistently said, we want to reach out to our neighbouring local authorities and see the growth and benefits spread to them as well.’
Trains north to Manchester and south Birmingham and London would use the new ‘hub’ station at Crewe and the £55m new rail line will cut journey times to the capital to under an hour. It would take 25 minutes to reach Birmingham and 20 to travel from Crewe to Manchester.
But a group of campaigners want to see more action on a much shorter and less expensive line which they say would be of huge benefit to people in Cheshire.
Members of the Mid-Cheshire Rail Link Campaign say that re-opening the line between Sandbach, Middlewich and Northwich would help ease congestion on the county’s roads, boost local businesses and cut journey times.
Middlewich Town Councillor and secretary of the campaign group Samantha Moss said: ‘I would like to see HS2 bring benefits and business to Crewe but without improved connectivity to other towns, I can’t see how it will help the wider area and outlying towns.
‘At the moment, if someone lives in Knutsford and wants to go by train to Crewe, they have to travel to Stockport first – they have to go north and then back south. One man I know lived in Middlewich and worked in Northwich but has now moved to Manchester because it’s easier to reach work by train from there. That is a ridiculous situation.
‘Opening that line again would not just benefit our town, half of Cheshire would benefit. It would make a real difference to a lot of people.’
Middlewich station closed in 1960 leaving the town as the largest in Cheshire without a station. The eight-and-a-half mile line is still used regularly by freight trains and Cllr Moss added: ‘We know it is a viable line because Virgin ran some passenger trains on the line in August when work was being done on the track they normally use.
‘A study carried out in 2009 showed that it would cost less than £3m to upgrade the line to make it suitable for regular passenger services again. Since then all that has changed is that more people live here and the roads have become more congested, so it’s more important than ever that the line is re-opened.’
The campaign group was launched in the early 1990s but has really begun to gather a head of steam in recent months as awareness has risen and local MPs have pledged their support for the plan.
For now, much hinges on the progress of the HS2 line and a spokesman for Cheshire East Council said it was too early to comment on the specific benefits the high speed link will bring for other towns. The council has said though, that mid-Cheshire towns including Northwich, Winsford and Middlewich, will see significant economic gains from improved connections with Manchester, Birmingham and London.
Council leader Michael Jones said: ‘We want the right solution for Crewe and the wider region – that would enable the economic benefits to be enjoyed across the whole sub-region, stretching along a corridor from North Staffordshire to North Wales and Merseyside.
‘A hub station in Crewe would act as the gateway to the Northern Powerhouse and provide a vital link to the Midlands Engine. HS2 promises to bring a 21st century railway revolution to Crewe and utterly transform its economic prospects and those of the surrounding region.’
The council is now working with Department for Transport and Network Rail to finalise the location of that hub station. Their proposal must be submitted by autumn this year.
And when passengers on the new rail link reach Crewe, the town could be a leading centre for engineering and manufacturing with a population of 100,000 – an increase of about 20 per cent on today’s figure.
Crewe is already seeing the benefits of investment, with millions of pounds being spent on new roads, leisure facilities and business parks and a new technical college, due to open in September, which will offer traditional and vocational qualifications to up to 800 14-19-year-olds who want to work in engineering. And a new lifestyle centre is due to open in April will house an eight lane swimming pool, library and adult and social care facilities.
Need to know
Where it is: Crewe and Sandbach stand in South Cheshire and are joined by A534. Crewe’s famous railway station is to the east of the town centre while Nantwich station is very central. When using a sat nav, type CW5 5SB to find the centre of Nantwich and CW1 3DD should get you to the centre of Crewe.
Where to park: There are plenty of pay and display car parks within easy walking distance of both town centres.
What to do: There is no shortage of events, fairs and festivals in Crewe and Nantwich throughout the year but whenever you visit you’ll find a super mix of shops and
Where to eat? Both towns boast a range of cafes, restaurants and delis.
Find out more: Crewe Heritage Centre can tell you all you ever wanted to know about the town’s association with the railway, creweheritagecentre.co.uk. Or visit the Crewe and Nantwich Information Centre, in the civic centre in Nantwich (about four miles south west of Crewe) 01270 537359.