By Ben Jones
JULY 17 saw three significant announcements for High Speed 2 (HS2) as the planned routes for Phase 2b to Manchester and Leeds were confirmed, £6.6 billion of construction contracts were awarded for Phase 1 and shortlists were announced for the design and construction of the four Phase 1 stations.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced the final routes for the northern sections of HS2, which will run for 82km (51 miles) from Crewe to Manchester via the city’s airport and a separate 198km (123 miles) eastern leg running from a junction near Lichfield via the East Midlands Hub and South Yorkshire to Leeds.
Construction will also include links to the West Coast Main Line (WCML) near Wigan and to the East Coast Main Line at Church Fenton, south of York.
New or extensively rebuilt stations will be provided at Manchester Airport, Toton, Leeds and Manchester Piccadilly, but the controversial interchange at Meadowhall to serve Sheffield and South Yorkshire has been dropped. HS2 will take the more easterly route around Sheffield announced in 2016, following the M1/M18 motorways. A proposed parkway station for South Yorkshire no longer features in the plan, but could be added later.
A new hub could also be built on the western leg near Crewe enabling HS2 services to Stoke-on-Trent.
Phase 2b is expected to reduce journey times between Birmingham and Manchester from 88 minutes to just 40 minutes, and from Leeds to Birmingham from 118 minutes to 49.
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