Lancaster to London rail link ‘threatened by HS2'

Lancaster could lose direct train connections to London under the west coast High Speed 2 (HS2) railway project, the city council’s cabinet will be warned this week.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 4:32 pm
Lancaster could lose direct train connections to London under the west coast High Speed 2 (HS2) railway project, the city council’s cabinet will be warned this week.

Lancaster passengers could be faced with travelling to Preston and then catching a high-speed train to London, a cabinet report states - so the city council should consider lobbying activity to ensure London-bound high speed trains do stop at Lancaster, the paper states.

The Government’s High Speed 2 (HS2) project aims to deliver new railway infrastructure to improve rail capacity and cut rail journey times across the country.

But it is controversial. Some critics fear it will serve London’s economy rather than the north’s, that journey-time reductions to London are minimal and that Government money would be better-spent on improving east-west railway travel across the north.

The HS2 project is proposed in phases with brand new lines travelling as far north as Crewe, Manchester and Leeds. North of Crewe, no new HS2 tracks are proposed. New high speed trains would travel on the existing, traditional West Coast Mainline tracks north to Preston, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Lancaster’s current position as a regular ‘stopping station’ is not guaranteed, the council report states. Some trains travelling north to Scotland might stop at Lancaster but some trains travelling south to London might not. If so, Lancaster travellers would have to take one train to Preston and then a second train to London, the report warns.

Lancaster City Council’s cabinet will discuss the situation at its latest meeting tonight (September 14).

Council officers are recommending the cabinet to agree a plan of action. Officers also want the cabinet’s approval to carry out legitimate lobbying activities in support of Lancaster’s HS2 case and, if needed, to produce a follow-up report and earmark a budget to use paid consultants.

The HS2 project is split onto phases. Phase 1 is a 140-mile railway line from London Euston to the West Midlands, which is due to open between 2029 and 2033. Phase 2A will connect the West Midlands to Crewe and train services could be running there between 2029 and 2033. Phase 2B moves to northern England and is more complicated. It involves separate western and eastern lines from Crewe to Manchester and Leeds.

Last year the Department for Transport confirmed that it would prioritise the western leg, whilst a decision regarding eastern leg to Leeds would be considered separately.

The cabinet paper states: “In agreeing to the lobbying strategy, the city council would be achieving several of its corporate priorities. In particular, it will be taking action to meet the challenges if the climate emergency by helping to continue the transition to accessible and low-carbon transport systems. It will also be supporting Lancaster’s status as a major city on the West Coast Mainline network, which helps to secure investment and regeneration across the district.

“The retention of direct London-bound services will help serve the needs of our local residents, organisations and businesses. The Lancaster District Local Plan also seeks to maximise the opportunities provided by Lancaster’s location on the main rail network and improve transport connections. By seeking to protect Lancaster’s status as a stopping station for direct London-bound services, the local authority aims to ensure that there are genuine, viable alternatives to private vehicle travel.”

The discussion on HS2 lobbying is earmarked to take place at the end of the meeting in private without press or the public. Private discussions of so-called ‘exempt’ topics are allowed by law if councils want to discuss sensitive details such as business or contract bids, quotes or fees.

Tomorrow’s cabinet meeting is at Morecambe Town Hall at 5pm.