Plea to rethink Manchester HS2 station plans ahead of crucial Commons debate

  • Friday 17 June 2022

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Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority are calling on the Government to urgently rethink flawed plans for the city’s new HS2 overground station in Manchester as MPs prepare to consider them in Parliament on Monday 20 June.

The Bill enabling the creation of the Crewe-Manchester leg of High Speed Rail will receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons, meaning that the window to consider the plans is beginning to close. 

As it stands, the Bill proposes a new six-platform overground station next to the existing Manchester Piccadilly station to accommodate HS2 and improved northern links, known as Northern Powerhouse rail.

But city leaders are warning that the overground plan would squander many of the regeneration benefits of the once-in-a-century opportunity created by new rail capacity – and create a station which was inefficient, unable to cope with future growth and a poor welcome to the city. Instead, it is arguing for an underground station which would address all these issues and have more future flexibility. 

The Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority intend to submit a ‘petition’ - objecting to elements of the Bill and calling for changes which will have to be considered as its progresses through Parliament. 

An overground station and its associated infrastructure would swallow much more development land, which could have been used to create jobs, green space and other opportunities. Estimates from independent advisers put the amount of extra land which will be lost, relative to having an underground station, at almost half a million sq m of prime land which could have supported around 14,000 jobs.

There would also be greater disruption to existing jobs and businesses within the larger construction zone required by an overground station. 

The unsightly overground infrastructure, such as the concrete viaducts required to take Northern Powerhouse Rail lines from Ardwick to a new overground station, would blight parts of the city and sever connections. 

Analysis suggests that by 2050 the economic benefits to the city and wider region of the underground option would be £333m A YEAR greater than those delivered by the overground plan. 

Modelling commissioned by the Council and TfGM (the Bechtel report) has also shown that a new station would be immediately be at full capacity – compromising its reliability and resilience and preventing future growth in passenger numbers. Not only would it not be future-proof, it would be struggling from day one. 

Manchester City Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig said: “It's true that an underground station would cost more initially. But over the years it would deliver enormously more economic and social benefits not just for Manchester but Greater Manchester and the north of England as a whole.

“This is absolutely not an argument against HS2 – the extra capacity it will create on our clogged rail network is vital and could be a real stimulus for jobs and investment.

“HS2, with Manchester as its northern hub, has the potential to unlock a wealth of positives for the region and help rebalance the UK’s economy. But if it’s not done properly we will be counting the costs for many decades to come. It’s not too late for Government to engage with us instead of dismissing the case for an underground station out of hand.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “The current HS2 proposals would fail to deliver the major rail improvements successive governments have promised, while providing the wrong solution for Manchester Piccadilly.

 “It’s the wrong solution because it will be at capacity from day one, it won’t be future-proofed, and it takes away Manchester City Council’s aspirations to have economic growth around the station.

 “We have always supported HS2 and will continue to do so. But the Government needs to reconsider its proposals for Manchester Piccadilly or it risks wasting a once-in-a-century opportunity to level up.” 

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