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A new train line from London to Manchester could plug controversial HS2 hole

A Class 730 train in orange and black on a railway platform in the UK.
The state-of-the-art Class 730 electric trains could soon connect London and Manchester (Picture: Dylan Morrison/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock)

Plans for new trains with ‘up to 50% cheaper fares’ between London and Manchester have been revealed after the HS2 drama that ended with its northern leg being cancelled.

A fleet of multi-million pound electric trains could finally be the solution to transport woes that have long plagued the capital and the north of England.

London Northwestern Railway unveiled plans to launch a new train service in the next two years after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s controversial decision to scrap the northern leg of the much-anticipated high-speed railway.

The company is now seeking permission to extend its existing service, which currently runs from London Crew to Manchester Victoria via the West Midlands.

If plans go ahead, passengers could board the fleet of Class 730 trains by the summer of 2026.

Map of HS2 and the legs that are scrapped.
A map showing the HS2 network and what sections were scrapped (Picture: Rex Features)

The planned route will connect the West Midland towns of Rugeley, Lichfield, Tamworth and Atherstone to Manchester city centre and Warrington.

Class 730 are electric trains, manufactured in the Midlands.

The trains are set to bring more capacity to the popular route, with each 10-car train able to accommodate more than 1,200 passengers.

The trains, promoted as environmentally friendly, offer customer fares up to ‘50% cheaper than the main intercity operator,’ said Ian McConnell, managing director of London Northwestern Railway-owner West Midlands Trains.

He said: ‘This proposal puts passengers at the heart of the railway and is the common sense solution to increase connectivity between the North West and the West Midlands following the cancellation of the northern leg of HS2.

An entrance to Manchester Victoria station.
The new service from London to Manchester Victoria station could start by summer 2026 (Picture: Nigel Roddis/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

‘With platform space at Euston at a premium, the best way to provide new journey opportunities to Manchester is simply to extend existing services, rather than trying to squeeze more trains onto the congested West Coast Main Line.

‘Additionally, unlike the open access model, the millions of pounds of extra revenue our proposals would generate will be returned to the taxpayer, providing a win-win for rail passengers.’

But bringing extra trains to the tracks doesn’t happen with a click of the fingers.

Now, the operator is seeking permission from the Department for Transport and the watchdog Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

It will make a bid later this year to use the same track space on the West Coast Main Line as Virgin Trains and Lumo have announced open access bids for.

Who gets to run the service will ultimately be up to the DfT and ORR.

In 2017, the owner of London Northwester Railway, West Midlands Trains, reportedly ordered more than 100 new trains, including Class 730, for £680,000,000, according to Rail Business UK.

The price of that fleet ordered at the time was around £6,800,000 per train, although the train company said it is difficult to put a precise figure on each individual model.

Why was HS2’s northern leg cancelled?

The Prime Minister scrapped the northern leg at the Conservative party conference in Manchester in October last year after weeks of intense speculation.

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Mr Sunak said the work on the line from the West Midlands to the north of England would end, but that he would complete the project from Birmingham to Euston.

The decision was reportedly taken due to the soaring costs of the mega project, with the final price tag estimated at a whopping £80,000,000,000 above what was planned.

Manchester United was just one of the businesses who urged the Prime Minister not to axe the northern leg.

Following the government’s decision, the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and the then-mayor of West Midlands Andy Street put forward plans for an alternative to HS2.

Burnham accused the Tories of ‘palming off’ the people in the north and treating the residents in the region in a way ‘they would never dare try in the southern half of the country.’

‘It kind of goes to the heart this way this country has always been run,’ he said.

Here is what Burnham had to say about the Prime Minister’s decision.

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