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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has made a call for government to reconsider plans for how HS2 trains will arrive at Piccadilly station as Parliament prepares to vote on Crewe to Manchester leg of the high-speed rail link to London.
Once approved, the ‘High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill’ will allow HS2 to continue its journey from Crewe up to Manchester, cutting journey times between London, Birmingham and Manchester and the wider North-west and increasing capacity on the rail network. Plans are also expected to create up to 17,500 new jobs across the region, with trains set to continue North to Scotland on existing tracks.
Andy Burnham however has criticised plans for trains to enter Piccadilly at surface level (they will pass through a tunnel between Manchester Airport and the city centre), rather than construct a new underground station. He argues that the move will mean the station will be immediately be operating at capacity, and trains making onward connections would be required to reverse out of the station.
In his statement, he also reiterated calls for the government to commit to building a new high-speed link across the Pennines to Leeds, rather than upgrading existing track for high-speed trains as part of the government’s commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail and to better level up the region’s rail infrastructure and improve capacity. He said:
“We remain committed to working with the Government to bring HS2 to our city-region. But we remain of the view that this is the wrong plan, both for Greater Manchester and for the North as a whole.
“Building HS2 on the surface at Manchester Piccadilly means the new station will be at full capacity from day one. It means the new train services from Liverpool and Leeds having to reverse out. And it also means forever losing prime development land and the economic opportunity that goes with it.
“We also again have to ask again: why is Greater Manchester the only part of the country being asked to make a substantial financial contribution to the cost of HS2?
“We believe there is a better plan which would do much more to level up the North of England with the South. An underground station would be an investment in building a bigger Northern economy and would pay for itself over time. It could also help deliver an entirely new line between Manchester and Leeds, which is what we were promised.
“We call on the Government to listen to the North and work with us to get right solution. This decision will have a huge bearing on the future of the North for the rest of this century and the next and it is vital that it is not sold short. We will be pressing the case for major changes to the Bill and seeking the support of MPs on all sides.”
Architects Weston Williamson + Partners drafted plans for an underground station at Piccadilly when it was first proposed two years ago as an alternative for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail to serve the city. The architects have supported Andy Burnham’s call for a rethink of the station and described their plans as ‘oven-ready‘ should the government consider alternative proposals.
In a statement released ahead of the HS2 bill being put to Parliament, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said:
We are determined to improve transport connections and level up communities across the country and this Bill marks a landmark moment as we bring HS2 to Manchester and lay the foundations for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“Our £96bn investment in rail in the North and Midlands and in connecting them to London will bring communities together, create thousands of jobs and make towns and cities in these key areas more attractive to business up to 10 years quicker than under any previous plans.”
“The IRP is the blueprint for the government’s commitment to building better transport links, generating prosperity and opportunity across the North and Midlands bringing benefits up to 10 years sooner than previously planned, all while delivering on levelling up the country.”