The High Speed 2 rail link (HS2) is needed to improve the capacity of our rail network. Unfortunately, it has been designed as a simple duplication of the existing West Coast Main Line, rather than taking full advantage of the new route to improve the shape of the network.
North From Birmingham
Featured here is a map presenting a suggested alternative route for part of the HS2 phase two leg to Manchester (in red). Also included on the map are two proposed routes for a low-speed link (shown in blue) connecting the high speed line to Wolverhampton, to permit through trains from London to Wolverhampton on HS2 (and potentially on to Shrewsbury if electrification is provided in future). You can zoom in on the map to look around the proposed routes in detail.
While the section out of Birmingham and the Wolverhampton link options are quite carefully detailed, once out of the city the route becomes merely a rough guide and it is assumed the line would continue north to Crewe. From there it is assumed that the official proposed route would be used to reach Manchester.
Rather than many trains bypassing Birmingham, this proposal would see HS2 services from the north-west and Scotland (eg. Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow) travel through (and call at) central Birmingham on route to London. This has the potential to greatly improve the network’s connectivity. For example, if the line from Crewe to Holyhead is electrified it would permit services from north Wales and Chester to London to also serve the market for travel to Birmingham. Currently, trains from Chester and north Wales to London avoid Birmingham. This means passengers for Birmingham have to change at Crewe or use a slower, indirect, route (via Wrexham and Shrewsbury).