Alternative HS2 Piccadilly hub ‘could save billions’

Fresh proposals for a Manchester HS2 station could eliminate the need for one of the second phases of the rapid-rail network – the part connecting Birmingham and Leeds – saving billions of pounds and unlocking development sites, its proponents say. 

Under the alternative proposal from architecture studio Weston Williamson + Partners and consultancy Expedition, a “through station” at Manchester Piccadilly, rather than the existing terminus plans, would allow services from Birmingham to Manchester to continue towards the North East of England and Leeds. 

Deciding not to go ahead with the Birmingham to Leeds section of HS2 would save “several billions of pounds”, the two firms said, although they did not provide an exact figure. 

The reconfiguration would require a high-speed rail tunnel beneath central Manchester that curves to the north-east to follow the M62 corridor towards a new trans-Pennine tunnel and Leeds, the proposal shows. 

A high-speed parkway station would be constructed, close to Junction 20 of the M26, to serve the Rochdale and Oldham communities. 

Under the existing proposals, which have been drawn up by the High Speed Two rail company and Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 trains arriving in Manchester would have to reverse out of the station before continuing their journeys. 

The plans include an above-ground terminus next to the existing station. However, the Weston Williamson + Partners and Expedition design team proposes an underground station that would unlock development opportunities above ground.

HS2 Alternative Piccadilly

The alternative proposal would eliminate the need for phase 2b of HS2, the design team says

By developing the station below ground level, the team said it can create a “business district” and “new opportunities for commercial development” above ground and avoid “urban severance” to the east of the station – a potential risk inherent in the existing terminus proposal. 

“The opportunity for extensive new commercial developments, adjacent to and above the new high-speed railway station, offers the potential for the new low-level station to be part-funded by the real estate value of such developments,” according to the team. 

The alternative proposal also provides scope for a “new urban quarter” and regeneration opportunities around Store Street, Chapeltown Street and the Ashton canal, an area which would be known as Station Square, according to the two firms.

Weston Williamson and Expedition’s High Speed Station Square proposal has been submitted in to response to a call in March from the Government’s National Infrastructure Commission for evidence on the existing proposals. 

Manchester City Council has a strategic regeneration framework in place, drawn up by Bennetts Associates, Mott MacDonald and BuroHappold,  for the area around Piccadilly Station to prepare it for the potential arrival of HS2.

The framework includes a full overhaul of the railway station itself and almost 2.9m sq ft of office space.

Some 261,000 sq ft of retail space, 5,000 apartments and 250 hotel rooms have also been mooted.

Much of the proposed development would be to the north of the station, in areas designated as East Village, Piccadilly North, Piccadilly Central and Piccadilly Heights.

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