The Department for Transport (DfT) has scrapped a 13-mile stretch of the proposed HS2 route.
HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson confirmed the Golborne Link will be removed from the HS2 phase 2b bill, connecting Crewe and Manchester.
The 13-mile link would have seen trains taken off the main route before Manchester and connected to the West Coast Main Line (WCML) near Wigan to continue the journey to Glasgow. The intention was to improve connectivity and journey times to Scotland, and allow greater capacity for freight on the WCML.
The DfT has now declared that the Golborne Link will be removed before the second reading of the HS2 Crewe – Manchester Bill, which will happen before parliamentary recess at the end of July, meaning it will not be seeking the power to construct it.
It is attributing the U-turn to the conclusions made by Sir Peter Hendy in his Union Connectivity Review, in which he said the Golborne Link would not resolve capacity constraints and might not be the best way to get high-speed trains to Scotland.
It comes after mounting pressure from MPs and residents in the Warrington, Wigan and Trafford areas, who were upset about the link running through their constituencies and causing years of disruption.
The government said it is “committed to leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding the right solution to take HS2 trains to Scotland”.
It will explore a number of alternatives that “could deliver similar benefits within the framework of the Integrated Rail Plan”. This could mean anything from upgrading existing infrastructure to building a new high-speed line.
An official supplement to January’s HS2 Crewe – Manchester strategic outline business case will be published before the second reading, which will set out the implications of removing the link.
The route of the Golborne Link will be safeguarded while alternatives are considered, meaning the affected homeowners will still be compensated and be able to access support as needed.
Stephenson said: “HS2 is a once-in-a-lifetime project that will transform travel across the entire UK as we know it and serve millions of people for hundreds of years to come, and it’s absolutely vital that we get this right from the outset.
“Removing this link is about ensuring we’ve left no stone unturned when it comes to working with our Scottish counterparts to find a solution that will best serve the great people of Scotland.”