Cancelling Phase 2a of HS2 and putting billions into Network North will benefit everyone in Staffordshire

This week I was successful in securing a debate in parliament on the cancellation of HS2 Phase 2a and Network North.

As someone who has repeatedly called for investment from HS2 to instead be spent on better local and regional transport. News of Phase 2a’s cancellation came alongside serious questions raised about the impact which Phase 2a would have had on rail services to stations north of Birmingham, like at Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford.

So, I am pleased that a commitment has now been made to deliver high speed rail services to Stoke-on-Trent alongside investing in major road and rail improvements for North Staffordshire.

This commitment came in the wake of the October 2023 announcement by the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, that he had taken the decision to cancel Phase 2a of HS2. The Prime Minister also made a huge commitment to invest in major transport improvements across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire as part of Network North. £36bn freed up from the cancellation of Phase 2 of HS2 will be invested in major transport upgrades across the Midlands and the North to help level up opportunities.

As I told Parliament, I welcomed the cancellation of HS2 Phase 2a because the reality of Phase 2a was great pain for Staffordshire, and I welcome the Network North initiative because it promises great gains for Staffordshire.

Suddenly it becomes possible to get 100% funding for the delivery stage for transformational projects like the reopening of Meir Station in my constituency and the reopening of the Stoke-Leek line which includes a station at Fenton Manor in my constituency.

HS2 Phase 2a just didn’t add up. Or rather, its costs kept being added to and its benefits diminished. We now have an opportunity to focus on the local benefits that will add up to a more coherent and productive, well-connected transport system across road and rail for the benefit of more than elite travelers between our biggest cities.”

In response the Minister of State for Rail and HS2, Huw Merriman MP said that following his recent visit with me to Meir Station he was delighted with the decision and praised the effort of those campaigning for a new station: “…the project aims to provide a new station in the town of Meir on the existing Crewe-Derby line, and it was awarded initial funding to develop a strategic outline business case as part of the first round of the restoring your railway ideas fund. The full business case is expected to be submitted in July of this year, and decisions on further funding for the project will be made within the context of the broader programme. As he knows, his station is mentioned in Network North; we are committed to it.

“My hon. Friend mentioned Stoke and Leek, and a bid to reinstate the railway line between Stoke-on-Trent and Leek has been made to the restoring your railway programme. The proposal examines the potential for six intermediate stations on the route, and the Network North announcement included the intention to progress the Stoke-Leek restore your railway scheme to delivery. I am grateful to him for all his work on that.

“Longton station is another that I visited with my hon. Friend. That original station project includes public realm, cycle hub, waiting shelters and accessibility improvements. The council has faced a number of challenges in relation to cost pressures, delays and technical issues. The estimated cost of the Longton project is now forecast at £3.5 million to £4 million, compared to £1.1 million at the time the funding was awarded. We are committed to working with Stoke-on-Trent City Council—Network Rail has entered into a development services agreement, and the council has indicated that the project is forecast to complete by September 2025. On junction 15, which my hon. Friend mentioned, improvements are being developed and delivery would be on a similar timeline as improvements to the A50. Those are all subject to a supportive business case.”

The cancellation of HS2 Phase 2a and Network North undoubtedly offer more benefits to North Staffordshire than the HS2 project could ever promise. These are some of the key local transport improvements announced:
• Reopen Meir Station
• Reopen Stoke to Leek Line
• Upgrade junction 15 of the M6
• Upgrade the A50/A500 Corridor
• Share of new £2.2bn Midlands Local Integrated Transport Settlement for local transport improvements including pothole funding
• £2 Bus fare cap extended to keep fares lower
• HS2 services committed to Stoke-on-Trent with at least 2 fast trains an hour to London

Joining me during the debate were a number of my fellow Staffordshire MPs who were also keen to raise their concerns regarding the negative impacts of HS2 in their constituencies and support the reallocation of HS2 funding into vital local transport networks.

Jack Brereton MP

Jack Brereton is the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent South (2017-) and was previously a city councillor. He is a member of the Transport Select Committee. He led a Westminster Hall debate on Heritage High Streets on 13th September.