HS2: GM leaders submit formal petitions for change
Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Transport for Greater Manchester, Manchester City Council, Tameside Council and Manchester Airports Group have joined forces to urge the government to rethink the HS2 Bill that would create an overground station at Manchester Piccadilly.
The bill is currently in the committee phase of the parliamentary process. The GM group hopes its petitions will cause the MPs in the committee to change the legislation before it achieves Royal Assent.
These are the concerns Greater Manchester authorities have submitted petitions to address in the HS2 bill, as written in a press release:
- Proposals for a surface station at Manchester Piccadilly, which would reduce the amount of available land to support jobs and regeneration, while creating new concrete viaducts which would loom over parts of East Manchester.
- Plans for the overground station have failed to be ‘future proofed’ with previous modelling showing it will be at full capacity from day one of Northern Powerhouse Rail entering service, with no opportunity to add extra services in the future to improve connectivity or deal with increased passenger numbers.
- Large plots currently set aside for over 2,000 car parking spaces at Manchester Piccadilly – this is at odds with Greater Manchester’s strategy to reduce car usage and air pollution in the city centre as the new HS2-NPR station should be a multi-modal public transport hub and flag bearer as part of the Bee Network.
- The station’s construction would mothball the Ashton Metrolink Line for at least 2 years, which would affect thousands of people every week making journeys for work and leisure. Rather than government’s plans to provide a bus replacement service during the period, Greater Manchester is proposing a Metrolink shuttle service operated from a new depot at Ashton Moss. This depot would have significant legacy value to support potential future Metrolink and tram-train services as well as provide local employment opportunities.
- Calling for powers to ensure the new HS2 NPR station at Manchester Airport can be connected into the Metrolink network from day one of opening.
- The government committing to build 400-metre platforms at Wigan so all HS2 services can stop there; the same approach it is taking at Preston and Carlisle.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Manchester City Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig have been vociferous in their objection to the proposal, saying that an overground station would damage the area’s economy and future. Both have advocated for an undergound station, like that which has been designed by architecture firm Weston Williams + Partners.
“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,” said Craig.
“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 service for years,” she continued.
“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.”
Burnham echoed Craig’s concerns.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he warned. “A second-class choice for HS2 at Manchester Piccadilly station will be a hammer blow to any prospects of really levelling up our country. “
HS2 released a report in June to justify its reasoning for an above-ground station – namely that the council’s preferred undergound station would be more expensive and take longer to build.
Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss MP sparked hope that a rejig of HS2 may be possible after she said she would deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, rather than the watered-down version in the government’s £96bn Integrated Rail Plan.
“We are pleased that there has been some progress and welcome the comments from Liz Truss to fully commit to delivering the North’s version of Northern Powerhouse Rail,” Burnham said.
“But if she is being true to her words, this must also include a reset moment on HS2 and the station at Piccadilly which is fundamental to the future of the North.”