Joy and frustration at review of HS2

An artists impression of what the HS2 line could look like
An artists impression of what the HS2 line could look like

The borough has given a mixed reaction to the Government’s announcement of an independent review into the HS2 rail project.

The controversial high-speed line is due to connect to the existing West Coast Main Line in Bamfurlong and those backing the scheme have promised it will slash journey times from Wigan to major cities.

However, transport secretary Grant Shapps has now said the question of “whether and how HS2 should proceed” will now be looked at again.

And that has delighted local campaigners who have long argued that HS2 brings a huge amount of disruption to communities in the borough such as Lowton where the line will run and that the benefits of the rail line have been overstated.

The review will be led by the former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee and a review will be sent to Mr Shapps this autumn.

Mr Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

Wigan Council has backed HS2 since the inception of the long-running project and leader Coun David Molyneux hit out at the new delay.

Coun Molyneux said: “From day one, I have argued the case for HS2 and said how the high-speed rail route should be delivered as soon as possible for the benefit of Wigan and the whole of the North West.

“HS2’s arrival here would position us as a transport hub for rail travellers from Lancashire, Merseyside and Cheshire as well as Wigan so to see further doubts about its future today is disappointing.

“I call on the government to act sooner rather than later but regardless of the review’s outcome later this year, it’s imperative the government continues to explore improved connections in the north, like the development of HS3, if we are to truly ever rebalance our country’s economy.”

However, the review was praised by Conservative elected representative for Lowton East Coun James Grundy.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted. We’ve been campaigning on this in Lowton East for a very long time.

“We just don’t think it is value money or benefits the area, and we think that HS3, which has already been committed to between Manchester and Leeds, is going to be a much better bet for local people in terms of improving transport infrastructure.”

National reaction was equally mixed. Right-wing think-tank the TaxPayers’ Alliance called HS2 a “white elephant” but the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) slammed the review, saying the business case for the line was very clear.