New direct trains from London to Manchester planned after HS2 northern leg is cancelled

Plans for new train services between London and Manchester have been unveiled following the cancellation of HS2's northern leg (Martin Keene/PA)
-Credit: (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

Fresh proposals for new train services between London and Manchester have been announced in the wake of HS2's northern leg being scrapped. London Northwestern Railway, the operator currently running routes from the capital to Crewe, is looking to get the green light to push its services through to Manchester Victoria, taking a route via the West Midlands.

The company is eyeing up the same slots on the West Coast Main Line that are also being targeted by Virgin Trains and Lumo for their own open access bids. The Department for Transport, alongside the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), will be making the call on which new services will be launched.

Should London Northwestern Railway get the nod, it would mean brand new direct journeys from Rugeley, Lichfield, Tamworth, and Atherstone in the West Midlands straight to the heart of Manchester and Warrington, with plans to roll out Class 730 electric trains starting summer 2026.

READ MORE: TfL shares update on when London Underground line will be closed for testing of new trains

Passengers outside London Euston station
The new routes would be added to existing services, to save more trains competing for platform space at London Euston -Credit:Getty

The move comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak put the brakes on extending HS2 from the West Midlands to Manchester last October, citing runaway costs.

Ian McConnell, Managing Director of West Midlands Trains which owns London Northwestern Railway, commented: "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. 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. Just as we have shown with our existing long-distance services to Birmingham and Liverpool, our green and environmentally-friendly new electric trains will provide an affordable alternative to the car and coach, with fares up to 50% cheaper than the main intercity operator."

Most train operators in England including London Northwestern Railway are paid a management fee, with the UK Government holding responsibility for costs and revenue. Open access operators receive no taxpayer-funded subsidies and take on all revenue risk.

There are concerns that these services create additional strain on the rail network and take too much revenue away from conventional operators. Dominic Booth, chief executive officer of West Midlands Trains' parent company Transport UK Group, said: "Our new service proposals represent a significant step forward in enhancing the rail network between Manchester and London."

He continued: "By leveraging the new Class 730 electric trains, we will provide greater capacity and comfort for customers travelling to Manchester while also supporting the local economy by creating new job opportunities in the North West. This proposal aligns with our commitment to delivering efficient, sustainable, and customer-focused rail services across the UK."

Hoping to boost connections to Manchester Airport, London Northwestern Railway plans to extend its existing service between Stafford and Crewe. Later this year, they're set to formally submit these plans to the ORR.

Get the latest travel news from London's roads, trains and buses with our new London Traffic and Travel newsletter. You can sign up HERE.