The current Bill enabling the Crewe to Manchester leg of HS2 is set to receive its second reading at the House of Commons, seeking to finalise plans for a new six-platform overground station next to the existing Manchester Piccadilly station. This also includes the plans to improve northern links, referred to as Northern Powerhouse rail, a project that potential Conservative Leader Liz Truss has recently fanned the flames for.
The Mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, along with other leaders within the city, has come out calling for an urgent rethink of the current Bill before it is too late. They have warned that a misguided solution could have severely detrimental effects on the prospects for public transport in the North of England for generations to come.
Current plans for HS2’s expansion into Manchester include the proposed overground addition to Manchester Piccadilly, though Burnham and other leaders are championing the idea of an underground station. Modelling suggests that an overground station would restrict Piccadilly’s capacity from day one, leading to mass congestion with no option to accommodate extra services. The overground would hamper the already underdeveloped infrastructure of Manchester’s rail network.
The severity of getting this infrastructural development wrong could have dire consequences, not just for Manchester, but the entirety of the North of England’s rail network. Manchester Piccadilly’s development is ‘fundamental’ to the levelling up within the North of England and the ‘second class’ option of an overground station would be a ‘hammer blow’ to future ambitions for redevelopment. Due to these concerns, Mr Burnham has called for MPs to debate this issue, accompanied by a vote on the floor of the House of Commons.
This all comes after the second reading of the High Speed Crewe-Manchester Bill took place on the 20th June and triggered the ‘petitioning' period where concerns can be raised and addressed. These issues, if cannot be agreed upon with HS2 Ltd and the Government, are then decided on by a Select Committee of MPs.
Mr Burnham has stated:
“We cannot continue to repeat the mistakes of the past-failing to invest in Central Manchester’s rail links has led to rail chaos across the North time and again.
“This is a huge moment and the decisions that are made now will affect the prospects for people here in the North for hundreds of years to come. A second-class choice for HS2 at Manchester Piccadilly station will be a hammer blow to any prospects of really Levelling Up our country.
“If we get the wrong solution at Piccadilly, it will limit the economic growth, limit opportunities for local people and businesses, and limit the right rail solution for the whole of the North of England. This issue is of first order importance to our city-region, and it is only right that all MPs have the opportunity to debate and vote on the final plans for this once-in-a-century opportunity.”
Councillor Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, echoed these sentiments by stating:
“Fundamentally, a future-proofed underground station into Piccadilly that can expand to meet increased capacity in the coming years-and not be log jammed on day one-is a key element of our petition. An overground station would stymie the continuing regeneration of east Manchester for a decade or halt it completely in some areas, while severing the city’s Metrolink services for years. We also need to work with HS2 Ltd to ensure ventilation shafts for the incoming tunnel do not negatively impact our local communities, alongside improved solutions for connecting the airport to local travel infrastructure, including the Metrolink network at the point of opening.”
Due to the ongoing leadership race in the Conservative Party and recent commitments from Liz Truss to the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), hopes remain high for the possibility of a ‘rethink moment.’ HS2 and the NRP come as part of the £96bn Integrated Rail Plan for the North which, as recently as last week, has been criticised by the Transport Select Committee, stating that its current form “will reduce the prospects of meeting our ambition for the North.”
Formal petitions are being submitted today, by organisations across Greater Manchester, to raise the concerns about the undesired aspects of the HS2 bill, such as the removal of the Golborne Link without implementing plans for a reasonable alternative.
To find out more about this ongoing strife regarding HS2’s progression through the North of England, read our upcoming featured piece in the August 22nd release of Rail Technology Magazine.
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