THE Government’s transport secretary insists HS2 will bring new opportunities to improve local services for Cheshire’s passengers.
Chris Grayling MP visited Winsford train station on Thursday, where he met with Conservative members on Cheshire West and Chester Council.
He believes that by moving express services that don’t stop in mid Cheshire off the old network and on to HS2, it would create ‘a whole load of extra space for local services’.
He said: “There will be people in this area who think ‘why on earth are we getting HS2? It’s not going to help the area at all’.
“But actually, we are standing at a station that gets an hourly commuter service either way.
“If you take the express trains off this line, put them on to a new route, suddenly you’ve got a commuter railway that can do far more.
“So as Crewe grows, and there is more opportunity to go further up the line, you suddenly get a commuter railway where today there is a limited services that is nothing like what people want for their regular commute.”
Mr Grayling’s support for HS2 is at odds with his former cabinet colleague Esther McVey, MP for Tatton.
At a meeting in Rudheath in November 2017, covered by the Northwich Guardian, the then-Conservative whip questioned whether there would still be a need for HS2 by the time it runs through mid Cheshire towards Manchester in 2033.
She also expressed concerns about the cost of HS2 – after a Government report in July 2017 suggested the bill could rise from an estimated £56 billion to £111 billion – but Mr Grayling insists the service will be worth it for Cheshire passengers.
He said: “If I say to an audience ‘how many people support HS2?’ quite often you don’t get that many people putting their hands up.
“But if I say to people ‘how many people want more commuter trains and more freight trains to get lorries off the roads’ every hand will go up.
“The point about HS2 is that’s what it does. This rail system is full, you can’t easily run more commuter trains into Crewe for example.
“I’ve just been in Crewe to talk about the plans for the Crewe hub and the ambition is to create a really big, successful commercial centre around the HS2 station there. That’s going to mean good jobs for people who live in Winsford and young people can stay in the area.”
Mr Grayling believes HS2 is just one piece in the jigsaw of improving the north’s railway – along with improving the network around Manchester and the TransPennine line.
“At the moment the rail system in the north is not up to the needs of the modern world,” he said.
“We desperately need in the north a proper, modern rail system, and at the moment we are trying to squeeze into a system with capacity constraints as many trains as we can possibly cope with.”