HS2 Train artists impression

Mayors outline options to revive rail north of Birmingham

The mayors for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands have outlined in a little more detail how they plan to revive the rail network between Manchester and Birmingham.

Speaking at an event in Birmingham, both Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and West Midlands mayor, Andy Street said that failing to do anything at all would be damaging to the economic growth in both regions.

The pair have now offered three possible options for the line. These include;

  • Enhance the existing West Coast Main Line to improve the capacity and unblock some of the most bottlenecked parts
  • Build major bypasses to the line at the southern end, as well as between Crewe and Stockport, alongside upgrades to the existing line
  • Or construct a completely new and segregated line, but not built to the specification of the high-speed line in the south.

The mayors held what they called constructive talks with the Transport secretary, Mark Harper last week when they discussed in greater detail how financing the possible projects could be achieved. However, previously, Harper had said that he remained sceptical about how any such project could be privately financed.

The mayors have been working with a private sector consortium including former HS2 boss, Sir David Higgins and including representatives from Arup, Mace and Arcadis on the plans.

Burnham told journalists at the event that a ‘do-nothing approach’ would not be accepted and that capacity issues would lead to a quite serious transport headache for the rest of the century.

These concerns were echoed by experts last month who told the Transport Select Committee that capacity would need to be curbed given current passenger projections and without HS2, would only get worse.

This was later disputed by rail minister Huw Merriman, who said that any forecasts on capacity were incorrect as they were looking at the current capacity situation and the government had made no decisions yet on future plans.

In a statement after their meeting with the secretary last week, the mayors said: “Ultimately there are capacity challenges on the West Coast Main Line between Birmingham and Manchester, and so we have decided to seek the help of the best private sector brains to look at how we might creatively resolve that without a significant bill on the public purse.”

Photo Credit: HS2

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