Cheshire East Council’s leader and deputy leader, councillors Sam Corcoran and Michael Gorman, Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, local councillors and businesses leaders at Crewe’s Market Hall.

Northern leaders come together for ‘Connecting through Crewe’ event

5 March 2024

Northern leaders came together to discuss how Crewe’s 360-degree connectivity and strategic position puts it at the heart of delivering on the region’s transport ambitions and why the opportunities for the town and its ongoing regeneration remain despite the cancellation of HS2 in the north.

Cheshire East Council’s leader and deputy leader, councillors Sam Corcoran and Michael Gorman, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram – the ‘Metro Mayors’ of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region – and businesses leaders gathered at Crewe’s Market Hall on Monday 4 March under the banner of ‘Connecting Through Crewe’.

The event focused on the importance of the town in delivering regional transport and levelling up ambitions, and how partners can work together to maximise opportunities that may come forward in place of HS2. It follows the Government’s decision last year to cancel the HS2 scheme north of Birmingham.

They also discussed how Crewe’s growth can continue to be driven forward – recognising the need for further investment in its regeneration and the town’s importance to the North-West economy.

Cllr Sam Corcoran - May 2023Cllr Sam Corcoran said: “I would like to thank all those who attended our event in Crewe today and I was pleased to welcome the two mayors for this important discussion.

“Crewe remains at the heart of the UK’s rail network and was at the heart of plans for HS2 in the north. It therefore needs to be at the heart of whatever follows in place of HS2. We are pleased that the Mayors of Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester have reiterated the need for improved north-south connectivity and that this needs to be via Crewe.

“The decision to cancel HS2 Phase 2 also cancelled the key levelling up catalyst for Crewe and the wider area – its arrival would have boosted the local economy by £750m per year.

“Yesterday’s event was an opportunity to strengthen collaboration between partners in the north and to look at what comes next and how we maximise any opportunities that may come forward in HS2’s place.

“It was also an opportunity to demonstrate why investment in Crewe and at Crewe Station – regardless of HS2 – is not only essential for the town and Cheshire East, but for the wider region.

“With more than three million people within a 45-minute commute of Crewe by road and rail, it is hugely important that we continue to highlight Crewe’s strategic location and demonstrate why as the transport connector for the North, West Midlands, Wales, London, and beyond, Crewe Station is one of the most important interchanges on the UK rail network.

“We must also keep in mind the vital role that Crewe has always had, and will continue to have, in supporting the economic success of the North West.

“Through a connected Crewe, the North West can link to new markets and labour pools, benefit from more efficient passenger rail and freight paths and help to drive a shift from road to rail for long distance travel.”

Cllr Michael Gorman, who is also chair of Cheshire East Council’s economy and growth committee, spoke to the audience about Crewe’s ongoing regeneration programme.

Gorman-Michael-223x280‘2024 is a major year for this town’, he said, with work on a number of projects this year helping to ‘set the foundations of the future for Crewe and bring forward opportunities for business, people to meet and work and to create a vibrant local community’.

He added: “But HS2 was the driver and confidence that enabled these projects to be developed and promoted. Without HS2 there is now a need to ensure that the momentum and investor confidence is maintained, and we need certainty on transport links – links that will be fast and reliable.”

Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, is part of a consortium looking at alternative plans for the scrapped northern section of HS2 alongside Mayor Andy Street and private sector partners. He said the plans, which aim to keep enhanced North-South connectivity alive, would be published and shared with Cheshire East Council shortly.

“The North West of England, the place that gave railways to the world, should be the place that expects a modern railway that connects people north-south, and east-west – and that’s what we need to hold firm to and that’s why we are here today,” he said.

“It is very important that we do this together and that we put forward a vision for the right railway for this part of the world as we go into the rest of the 21st century.”

Mayor Burnham said Greater Manchester had ‘always supported the Crewe hub vision’.

He added: “We need to add your ambitions to what we are developing because we cannot accept the situation that we have got, which is that the West Coast Main Line ‘is it’ and that there will be no additional rail capacity north-south to support connectivity and growth.

“If we did accept that, it would mean that we have worse train services in future than we currently have now – with fewer seats and travelling at slower speeds.”

Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, talked about how £86bn more funding would have been available to spend on transport projects over the last decade ‘if the funding received in the north was equivalent to that received in the south’.

“We need to revisit plans for both north-south and east-west connectivity and have a strategic vision of connected places,” he added.

“It isn’t just about connecting towns, and it’s not just about connecting people, or allowing people to go and see wonderful places – it’s about connecting people to opportunities.

“We should not accept a second-class transport system.”