HS2 isn’t coming until 2026 but it could bring an early boost to north-west

The first phase of the £55.7bn high-speed rail line HS2 is expected to be completed in 2026, with the second phase – which includes Manchester and the north-west – to be opened in 2032-33. But some stations may already be benefiting from a revamp…

The infrastructure project has been highly controversial, with many critics arguing that it is costing too much, taking too long and will be disruptive or even damaging to those living along the planned route.

However, it will undoubtedly cut journey times between London and parts of the north, bringing a massive boost to the Northern Powerhouse. The train trip between the capital and Manchester will be an hour faster than it is at present – down to just 67 minutes from 127 – which will open up huge opportunities for businesses based in both the UK and overseas.

A number of destinations across the UK will be covered by the new HS2 services but won’t be benefiting from new lines as the HS2 trains will run on the existing networks, including Liverpool, Preston, Newcastle, Carlisle and Edinburgh.

A leg-up for Lancashire

The Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has just approved proposals from the Transport for Lancashire committee to look at the economic benefits of transforming Preston train station in preparation for the pending HS2 line. The station is already a major interchange between West Coast Mainline services, as well as regional and local services, and the LEP believes the huge infrastructural changes about to take place would be an unmissable opportunity for overhauling Preston.

The Transport Committee said: “Enhanced rail connectivity could act as a major stimulus for further employment growth in Lancashire, potentially contributing to the LEP’s objective of an additional 50,000 new jobs by 2025 and, in turn, supporting the broader growth objectives of the Northern Powerhouse.”

The plan is to create a modern transport hub, updating the facilities to give people and businesses a better experience, as the station has had very limited investment over the years.

County council transport planning adviser Dave Colbert said: “The big challenge is trying to adapt a basically Victorian infrastructure to try to accommodate these big new trains. The difference between the quality of the trains and the environment of the station will become even starker.”

Growing interest

It is worth noting that Preston might be the only stop on the line between Scotland and London when the first phase of HS2 is completed. This means the city as well as the surrounding area is likely to be affected as footfall increases, leading to more investment in the area and more opportunities for businesses.

Transport for Lancashire has also suggested the idea of creating a new business district near the railway station in Preston “to provide Preston with the high quality, premium business investment location currently missing from the city centre”.

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