An artist's impression of one of the future HS2 trains. Credit: HS2

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.”

Read more: Burnham says Golborne Link cash should be used to get Manchester Piccadilly HS2 plan right

Your Comments

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Its becoming rather tiresome for those of us (and believe it or not we exist) large swathes of the North West to listen to the increasing annoying Manchester centric rhetoric normally inclusive of the statement “Good for the North” really ? The plan was for a Northern powerhouse , not exclusive to Manchester .

By Paul M

The camel is a racehorse built by a committee.

By You know what they say

Build HS2 properly or bin it off.

If it’s not going to be the progressive underground option and link to metrolink at the airport, don’t build HS2 at all and focus all money on a fast line from Liverpool to Leeds via Manc (which should have been the first priority anyway in my opinion).

By Anonymous

I wouldn’t try going to Manchester Airport from town on the MetroLink if you’re in a hurry to catch a plane.

By chris

Bologna rail station looks like your typical provincial station in size and surface platforms – until you realise the huge network of underground investment has been made by the Italians. It really is a rail station for the future and not an ugly feature that surely would in Manchester’s ugly line on stilts that doesn’t even provide onward links to the North.

By Rodders

@ Paul M
Whilst this may look like more money for Manchester, it isn’t. It really IS about improving transport connectivity across the North. An underground station would enable through services from Liverpool to Leeds and beyond, while also unlocking capacity on the classic rail network. A few £bn, which is all that this would cost, would set us right for the next century. It’s what the government spends on pensions and benefits in a few days. We are stronger when we unite for what the North needs, rather than fighting against each other and allowing Whitehall to point to excuses you so willingly offer for not investing at all.

By Mancunian

Can Liverpool not just get their own site so we don’t have to listen to deluded rubbish and have progressive conversations

By Anonymous

To Paul M: I get you’re point entirely, but a Northern Powerhouse – or whatever you want to call it – makes little sense unless Manchester sits at the centre of it (rather in the manner that London drives much of the South-East).

By AltPoV

The EU has just selected 135 transport infrastructure projects to get 5.4 billion euros to create seamless regional economic connectivity whereby rail projects have a prominent role. Borrowing to invest and create economic value. Is this ‘capitalism’ or just ‘wasting taxpayers money’?

By James Yates

Paul, as inconvenient as it might be, but trains to Liverpool must pass through Manchester. Ergo, if capacity is constrained in central Manchester, it will be constrained in Liverpool and Leeds.

By Anonymous

It`s always “Manchester needs more money to benefit the North”, but Labour`s Lord Adonis just ignored Liverpool for full HS2, and on a lesser scale wasn`t the Ordsall curve meant to benefit part of the North but it hasn`t, look Mcr is a great place but you`ve had a lot of investment, compared to airport-like Piccadilly , Lime Street station is like a shed with a few shops. Given the will , and funding , anyone can create an important hub and that`s what successive governments have produced in Manchester.

By Anonymous

Manchester is the epicentre of the NP because it is halfway between Leeds and Liverpool. It is geography. Without London the South East would be an economic irrelevance, without Manchester the North would still function.

By Elephant

Absolute nonsense Anon 10:14

Network Rail have only recently completed enhancements at Lime Street to the value of a third of a billion quid. That’s significantly more than that spent at Piccadilly. In addition Liverpool is on the HS2 network and HS2 trains will arrive into Liverpool from day 1.

The usual complaints are akin to shouting at clouds – you cannot change Manchester’s geography and it an unavoidable fact that trans pennine trains must go through Manchester to get to Liverpool. The government still need to give the go ahead to the full scope of the existing Transpennine enhancement project which should increase capacity through the central section. I would prefer they devote some of the generous funding that has gone on Liverpool in recent years and divert it to the critical central section through central Manchester.

By Anon 2

re Anon2, you say one-third of a billion£ (or less dramatically £330m) was invested on Lime Street station recently, but you are wrong, as only a part of that amount related to Lime Street. Yes it did get 2 new platforms but another was withdrawn so only 1 was gained, also money was spent upgrading track and signalling. However other chunks of the money was used on Merseyrail and the Halton curve, plus completing a previous project at Huyton as part of the Mcr to Liverpool electrification. In fact Liverpool City region contributed £118m towards the total £330m, and by the way full HS2 tracks won`t go to Liverpool perhaps only to Warrington, and there won`t be full length HS2 trains either. Finally Lime St station is a half botched mess, and does not even have electronic ticket barrier gates where the London trains arrive/depart .

By Anonymous

Anon 5:14 Thank you for confirming that Liverpool has in fact received hundreds of millions of pounds of central government funding that could otherwise have been spent on expanding capacity through central Manchester to benefit the whole of the north.

If it’s an ‘airport style’ travellator and ticket barriers that you wish to see in Lime Street then that sort of enhancement, it it’s even needed, won’t need hundreds of millions of pounds and I would suggest such an investment wouldn’t yield anything like the benefits of addressing infrastructure bottlenecks which affect train passengers across the north.

By Anon 2

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