Jack Brereton MP was successful this week in securing a debate in parliament on the cancellation of HS2 Phase 2a and Network North.
Jack Brereton MP has led efforts from North Staffordshire MPs who have 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. 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.
In October 2023, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced the cancellation of 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.
Jack was joined by a number of 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 local transport networks.
During the Westminster Hall debate, Jack Brereton MP said:
“I will start by making my position crystal clear: I welcome 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 travellers between our biggest cities.”
In response to Jack Brereton MP during the Westminster Hall debate, the Minister of State for Rail and HS2, Huw Merriman MP responded:
“He said that he is delighted with the decision on Meir station—I was delighted to join him up at Meir to see the site— and since then, he has been really successful in his campaign. That 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.”
Before the new year, Jack Brereton MP welcomed the Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP, to Stoke-on-Trent to discuss the city’s railway network. As part of the visit around Stoke-on-Trent, the Rail Minister and Jack toured a number of sites set to benefit from investment including Stoke Station, Longton Station and the proposed site for the new Meir Station.
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
Jack Brereton MP has vowed to continue his work with Staffordshire colleagues and local organizations to ensure the successful delivery of local transport improvements across the Staffordshire.