HS2 railway - rail

Countryside charity CPRE Cheshire has called on major investment to be pumped into local rail services instead of HS2.

The Cheshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England has questioned the justification for HS2 Phase 2b.

It came in a joint response submitted by the charity’s North West group to the call for evidence on rail investment priorities for the North and Midlands from the National Infrastructure Commission.

They say HS2 Phase 2b – connecting Crewe to Manchester and the Midlands to Leeds – is considered by many to be a vanity project which has many flaws.

They fear it poses “substantial and significant harms” to the environment to the extent CPRE Cheshire “cannot support it” despite longstanding campaigning for greater investment in rail and modal shift to rail.

Peter Raynes, Chair of CPRE Cheshire, said: “CPRE is an advocate of more rail usage in England.

“We want improvements to the connectivity and capacity of the main towns and cities across Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria and to our rural places.

“The Government needs to undertake a serious review of its transport policies in order to properly respond to the Climate Emergency.

“Road building should be an option of last resort with adequate commitment to rail investment to optimise a modern rail system.

“We trust that the National Infrastructure Commission will listen.”

They say the case made for Phase 2b should be revisited in light of the Climate Emergency, post-Covid19 challenges and against ‘The Heathrow Decision’.

CPRE Cheshire says it supports the need to connect HS2 Phase 1/2a onto the West Coast Mainline to allow classic-compatible trains to reach Macclesfield and Manchester prior to Phase 2b.

It would also allow HS2 services to reach Liverpool much earlier than envisaged.

But it wants local rail issues to be prioritised, including reopening the Middlewich line to improve access from Northwich and Knutsford to the West Coast Main Line at Crewe as well as giving Middlewich residents access to the rail network.

Currently, Middlewich is the largest town in Cheshire without a railway station.

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