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The Government introduced the High Speed Rail (Crewe to Manchester) Bill on 24 January 2022. The Bill is the latest in a series of hybrid bills, which are being used to authorise the construction of High-Speed Two (HS2), a high-speed rail line across England to connect some of the country’s largest cities and improve journey times to Scotland.

HS2 Phase 2b western leg

The High Speed Rail (Crewe to Manchester) Bill would provide the necessary powers to construct a high-speed railway line from Crewe into Manchester (the western leg of Phase 2b). The design includes:

  • connections to West Coast Main Line (WCML) near Golborne (the Golborne Spur) and north of Crewe (the Crewe Connection), enabling journeys to Scotland and other towns and cities in the North of England.
  • two new stations: one near Manchester Airport and one at Manchester Piccadilly, close to the existing station.

The Government’s latest estimate is that the western leg will cost between £15 billion to £22 billion (in 2019 prices). Subject to the successful passage of the Bill, the Government expect construction to start immediately following Royal Assent and finish between 2036 and 2041.

The Government’s Strategic Outline Business Case for the western leg describes the strategic case for the line. The western leg, along with other sections of HS2, is intended to improve journey times, including faster journeys between major cities in England and to Scotland, and address capacity constraints on the existing rail network. In addition, HS2, and the western leg, are intended to support the Government’s Levelling-Up agenda and 2050 net zero target. The Government’s latest economic case for the western leg forecasts a return on investment of between 60p to £1.70 for every pound invested in the scheme. This Benefit: Cost Ratio ranges from poor value for money to medium value for money by the Department for Transport’s standards.

The Bill

There are five main elements to the High Speed Rail (Crewe to Manchester) Bill. These cover:

  • the authorisation of works to construct and maintain the Crewe to Manchester Leg of HS2 (Part 1). Powers to carry out these works are conferred on a ‘nominated undertaker’ (Part 9)
  • the power to acquire land (or rights to land) necessary for the works to be carried out (Part 2), including powers to take possession of land temporarily (Part 4)
  • the deeming of planning permission to be granted for the works (Part 5)
  • the deregulation of works on HS2 (Part 6). This covers the disapplication, or modification, of certain powers contained in other legislation, which would otherwise interfere with construction
  • railways matters (Part 7), predominately the application of existing legislation to HS2.

The Bill would authorise the construction of a new depot in Scotland, which will be used to support HS2 connections to the West Coast Main Line. As a result, the Bill would trigger the Sewel Convention, whereby the UK Parliament seeks the devolved administration’s consent, in this case the Scottish Parliament’s consent, to legislate on devolved matters.

The Hybrid Bill process and carry over   

The Government introduced the High Speed Rail (Crewe to Manchester) Bill 228 2021-22 on 24 January 2022, along with the official Environmental Statement and other associated documents. This was followed by a consultation on the Environmental Statement, which ended on 31 March 2022. An independent assessment of the comments received during this consultation was published on 6 June 2022.

On 24 April 2022, the House agreed a motion to suspend proceedings and carry the Bill over to the current session. The High Speed Rail (Crewe to Manchester) Bill 005 2022-23 was reintroduced on 11 May 2022. Second reading is scheduled for Monday 20 June 2022.

The Library’s briefing paper on Hybrids Bills describes the process for hybrid bills in more detail.

Debate on the western leg

Much of the debate surrounding the Bill specifically has centred on aspects of the route’s design. Some of the main points of disagreement include:


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