Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has voiced concerns over the government’s new plans for the high-speed rail network known as HS2.
The government has announced that the controversial high-speed railway, HS2, will be built and managed by a dedicated minister appointed by the Prime Minister and a ministerial oversight group.
When completed, the new railway will slash journey times between London and several cities across the UK including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Development is expected to begin in two stages, the first will connect London and Birmingham by high-speed rail and the second will extend this line to Manchester and Leeds. The first stage of development is due to be completed and in use by 2028-2031 while the second stage will not see trains running until 2035-2040.
There have been widespread concerns regarding the efficacy of HS2 since the project’s inception in 2009 due to high levels of cost and also potential displacements of residents across the country to make way for the new lines. The company in charge of the project, HS2 Limited, have also been criticised for mismanagement and their failure to engage with local communities who will be affected by the railway, however, Boris Johnson has claimed that under his government “discipline” will be restored to the project.
Mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham voiced concerns regarding the plan suggesting that continuation with HS2 alone will mean residents in Greater Manchester and across the North will not see any benefits until the 2040s. Mr Burnham instead favours the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), a railway which would run east to west across the North connecting Liverpool, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Airport, Leeds and Bradford.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Burnham stated: “We’ve never been convinced in Greater Manchester about the design of HS2 on our side of the country. If you asked people in the North which one they would prioritise, most people would say ‘get east-west right’”.
Adding: “If we can all agree that we now prioritise east-west on the western half of the country, get the design right at [Manchester] Piccadilly, get the high-speed rail to Liverpool more quickly – then I think that’s something we could get behind. Because we could look at the prospect of east-west railways across the north opening in the 2030s, HS2 is only planned to come here in the 2040s.”
Mr Burnham outlined a four-point plan for the development of NPR in a statement posted on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority website which is as follows:
“Expedite the construction of Northern Powerhouse Rail by reassigning the HS2 team in the North to work alongside Transport for the North. This could deliver benefits for rail passengers in the North in the 2030s rather than having to wait until the 2040s.
“Build the full NPR network – connecting Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly, Bradford and Leeds.
“Build a new, modern, underground station at Manchester Piccadilly on an east / west alignment – to ensure our rail system is future-proofed for generations to come.
“Once NPR is complete, continue building HS2 south from Manchester, utilising the shared infrastructure between Manchester Airport and Piccadilly.”