COUNCIL chiefs say they will continue to make the case for HS2 after a review into the project was confirmed.

The Government announced on Wednesday that an independent review into the proposed high-speed railway will be conducted by retired engineer Douglas Oakervee to establish ‘whether and how we proceed’ with it.

But Cheshire East Council recently revealed its vision for how the £56 billion project could transform the area of Crewe around the train station – which the authority hopes would get up to seven HS2 trains an hour.

It believes the project would also be crucial for the wider borough – not just Crewe – and for the entire north of England.

Independent Cllr Craig Browne, deputy leader of CEC, said: “CEC firmly believes in the economic and social benefits that HS2 and a hub station at Crewe would bring to the town, borough and the wider sub-region.

Winsford Guardian:

“We also believe that there is strong case to be made to Government, as it undertakes this review, that HS2 will not only deliver benefits to Cheshire East but also is important to improve overall rail capacity on the rail network across the north of England and the Midlands. The project will therefore assist in rebalancing the UK’s economy.

“Cheshire East already has a strong economy, as well as several significant investment projects in and around Crewe which are not dependant upon HS2. However, the arrival of HS2 services will deliver additional investment and impetus to the regeneration of the town and the borough.

“The council continues to plan carefully, in anticipation of the positive change that HS2 will bring, to ensure new development is shaped for the benefit of all our communities.

“We will continue to work with government, pressing the case for HS2 with a hub station at Crewe, and look forward to the outcome of the review.”

Business leaders in the region have echoed Cllr Browne’s comments.

Philip Cox, chief executive of the Cheshire and Warrington local enterprise partnership, said that there would always be periodic reviews of a project the size of HS2 – but insisted the case for it must be made clear.

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“Bringing HS2 to Crewe is absolutely vital to the economic growth of Cheshire and Warrington,” he said.

“Whilst HS2 brings improved connectivity and reduced journey times, it will also help realise powerful growth opportunities in Crewe, Cheshire and Warrington, and across the Northern Powerhouse.

“Spreading the benefits of HS2 to places not on the new line is also important, and Crewe’s role as an important railway junction makes it a crucial part of the project.”

Labour councillors in Crewe have also expressed their concern at the review, which could threaten to derail the project entirely or the network on either side of the town.

Cllr Ant Critchley, CEC member for Crewe Central, said: “When people think of HS2, it is usually about faster journey times to London.

Winsford Guardian:

“However, the potential benefits of HS2 to northern towns like Crewe, as well as Cheshire as a county – are vast.

“The Conservative Government’s inability to commit to HS2 is frustrating, and this costly review is adding further to the uncertain future of our town.

“The Government should be building upon the work that is already underway and commit to investing on both existing and new infrastructure for passengers and freight, connectivity and opportunity.”

CEC’s Labour group added that the review is a ‘bitter blow’ – and called on the Government to ‘understand the level of cross party, business and trade union support that exists for HS2’.

Cheshire West and Chester Council – which is home to the stretch of mid Cheshire that Phase 2b would cross between Crewe and Manchester – is currently preparing a statement for the review.

The review will cover whether HS2 Ltd is in a position to deliver the project effectively, the full range of benefits from the project and the full range of costs of the project – including any opportunities to make savings.

It will also consider whether the assumptions behind the business case – such as passenger numbers and train frequencies – are realistic.

The cost of cancelling or scaling down the project will also be considered, as well as whether the railway in the north could be prioritised over the southern sections of HS2.

READ > Review threatens to derail HS2

Possible reductions in the scheme include reducing its speed, building only Phase 1 between Birmingham and London, combining Phases 1 and 2a between London and Crewe, and ‘different choices or phasing’ of Phase 2b between Crewe, Manchester and Leeds.

A final report is expected this autumn.