East Village Piccadilly
Manchester City Council has already prepared a framework for the arrival of HS2 into Piccadilly

Government promises ‘independent and rigorous’ HS2 review

Charlie Schouten

The fate of the multi-billion-pound high-speed rail project, and associated large-scale developments around Manchester and Crewe, will be decided by the autumn after the Government confirmed it has commissioned a review into “whether and how HS2 should proceed”.

Rumours of the review had been swirling ever since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July, and the Government has now confirmed Douglas Oakervee will pen a review into the future of the project, set to provide high-speed rail services between London, Birmingham, Crewe, Manchester, and Leeds.

The review will look into the benefits and impacts of HS2; its affordability and efficiency; its deliverability; and its scope and phasing, particularly in relationship to Northern Powerhouse Rail.

For the North West, several huge projects hinge on the delivery of the railway line, particularly in Crewe and Manchester.

The large-scale development of Crewe station owes much to the arrival of HS2; Cheshire East Council is proposing a major overhaul of the railway station and surrounding land to deliver up to 3.8m sq ft of commercial space along with 3,700 homes.

Plans here are already well advanced with the council launches two public consultations last month.

Artist Impression Of Crewe Railway Station Entrance From Weston Road

Visual of the proposed station entrance from Weston Road

The arrival of the route into Manchester would also encourage significant development. A new station is being planned in Hale Barns to serve Manchester Airport, taking in a plot of land off J6 of the M56.

Delivery of this station would necessitate the demolition of the existing Marriott Hotel off the J6 roundabout while a swathe of farmland off Shay Lane and Roaring Gate Lane are also to be built on under HS2’s initial plans.

Manchester City Council has also drawn up a strategic regeneration framework for the area around Piccadilly Station to prepare it for the arrival of HS2.

This includes a full overhaul of the railway station itself; close to 2.9m sq ft of office space, 261,000 sq ft of retail space, up to 5,000 apartments, and 250 hotel rooms. Much of the development is to be to the north of the station, in areas designated as East Village, Piccadilly North, Piccadilly Central, and Piccadilly Heights.

Tall buildings feature in the SRF at the arrival point of HS2, while the SRF also builds in the potential for an interchange between Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2.

Picc Escalators

A major overhaul of Piccadilly railway station and its surroundings also hinges on HS2’s arrival

Work is already under way on the southern sections of the high speed rail line although there are no spades in the ground yet for the northern section running from Crewe to Manchester.

While the Prime Minister has flagged concerns over HS2, he has been a vocal supporter of Northern Powerhouse Rail, and in late July signalled his support for the route between Manchester and Leeds.

Further details of the Government’s backing for NPR are expected as part of its Autumn Spending Review.

Following the announcement of the review into HS2, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

“That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.

“Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project.”

Oakervee added: “The Prime Minister has asked me to lead this important review into the HS2 programme. I am looking forward to working with my deputy, Lord Berkeley, to advise the government on how and whether to progress with HS2, based on all existing evidence.”

Reacting to the news of the review, Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “HS2 is a vital project to help rebalance the economy and make us more productive, alongside linked interventions including most notably Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“The Northern Powerhouse Partnership will be engaging positively with the review to make the case for why HS2 is so necessary, for cities like Leeds and Manchester, but also for those like Newcastle, Preston and Glasgow, which all benefit from significantly better connections under an integrated plan for a new railway to take city to city traffic off our largely Victorian network which we need for commuters and freight.”

Harworth Group’s head of communications and investor relations Iain Thompson said: “Whilst extra government attention on directing the efficacy of HS2 is welcomed, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that extra rail capacity is urgently required in the UK to support growth and to take pressure off the road network.

“We hope that the review focuses its efforts on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘whether’, as any kind of pause or cancellation would be a retrograde step.”

Your Comments

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We do not need HS2, we need some of GM’s 100+ closed railway stations reopening. It will just allow London to sap the life out of us even more.

By Acelius

Manchester has a huge Tech economy. This is vital for interaction with London.

By Elephant

good, just hurry up and cancel and we can get on with it, waste of time

By York Street

While our(?) London based Government keeps on ploughing £billions into London’s transport system and infastructure.

If HS2 is cancelled, do any of you think that money will be used for other Transport needs and projects in Manchester and the North?

Not a chance!

By jrb.

Let’s face it, the writing was on the wall for at least the northern half of HS2 when they added the junctions for the Liverpool spur.

Not because of cost, but because of the signal it sent. And that signal was “have your junctions on the map, as we know it’s not getting built anyway”.

Of course, if the whole line had been there in the first place we now know that the whole line would have had a higher benefit to cost ratio, but then this project has never been about value.

Given Boris’ Osborne inspired announcement to recommit to prioritising the piece of railway which carries half the passengers of Liverpool and costs 7 times the cost of a new Liverpool line, I’m not especially hopeful of an outcome that is favourable to us.

But perhaps if “the north” also gets screwed over once in a while, it might cause certain northern leaders to pause for thought before they set about briefing and lobbying against Liverpool when it looks like we’re finally getting something close to acceptable.

Liverpool will be ok if HS2 is cancelled, and following the recent announcement of two London trains an hour would only receive barely noticeable improvements (and a drop in capacity as the train lengths shrink).

In the instance that the northern section goes ahead, I look forward to seeing the reaction to the announcement that Leeds and Sheffield be reached via Manchester.

By Mike

London hoover

By Anonymous

We absolutely need HS2. Most arguments against it point to some fake news of only a few minutes being shaved off, or an (understandable) resentment to London. But from a strategic connectivity basis, it is essentual. Whether we like London or not, it’s the only one of two A++ global cities on the planet (the other being NY). It can’t help Manchester’s economy when you can fly in a shorter time for less money to London from many parts of Europe. We need fast connectivity to London.

As for the time savings, HS2 will halve the time it takes to get to London, the nation’s largest city and Birmingham, equal 2nd with Manchester (not just shave a few minutes off). That time is only part of the journey, so while some may say who cares if it currently takes 2 hours, we have to include the journey at both ends as well. It can take easily three to four hours now from home to where we need to get to in London and vice versa.

Which brings the 2nd part in. HS2 is only one part of three things we need to improve. HS2 is our essential North/South connectivity but we also need East/West just as much. It’s pointless building one and not the other. It’s like building a house with walls but no roof. You need both.

And the third part is local connectivity. It’s all very good to get to central Manchester at speed from London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds or Sheffield, but if it takes an hour to get to our local destination after that we haven’t solved the connectivity problem.

Those that say we should concentrate on just the East/West connection are saying we just need a roof and no walls. The thing is, London is banking on us giving in and accepting a half arsed system. We have to stand strong here and not give in. It’s not too hard to ask for what is considered standard throughout most of the rest of Europe, the hard part is standing strong and not giving in.


NIMBY’s everywhere in here..

Yes we do need HS2, in so much as we *need* extra capacity on the WCML to support freight and removing millions of lorry journeys from the roads. You can argue the *need* for 225mph trains, but even that is a moot point (imo) because most of Europe has SHST trains now.

People arguing to re-open train lines from the early 1900 instead of building a new line miss the point entirely. Both are necessary..

By Andrew

Great post EOD.

By Deja

Come back to us when “standing strong” also includes supporting Liverpool in its battle to be treated fairly.

As opposed to “standing strong” meaning expecting Liverpool’s support, while complaining and exercising networks in Whitehall corridors when that might mean Liverpool finally being served first, or at all (rather than never).

By Mike

If this is cancelled and Boris wins the next election, expect the announcement of Crossrail 2 within hours and it will all be the fault of the people, some on here who have campaigned to stop this. Well done! No other country in the rich world has a railway system as shabby and neglected as ours. No other country in the rich world does not have fast links between its major cities. All this tripe about a brain drain to London, is just not true. Do you think that Manchester’s renaissance is some sort of mirage? Some of the intended big investors in Manchester, may just decide that the current polaver of getting to London is not worth the hassle and may invest in Reading or Basingstoke instead. Do people think that the money saved from HS2 will be spent on building a swanky new Underground in Manchester or Leeds? I am afraid that the doubters have played straight into this governments hands. Acelius thinks it is more important to have a link to Seedley than the richest city in Europe.

By Elephant

Don’t think it will ever get built – too much delay and as a result the cost has sky rocketed…cannot see how it could now be cost effective. By the way have to disagree that London and NY are the only AAA cites, has the poster never been to Tokyo? It’s probably the most impressive city I’ve ever been to – and it also has a GDP that is almost 3 times that of London.

By Anonymous

If it is cancelled, Manchester will probably receive a huge cash investment from the Government as compensation, so what’s to lose?

By Just saying

Having Lord Berkeley on the investigating panel spells doom for HS2. He has been quite vocal in his condemnation of HS2
Oh! Anonymous – you omitted to say that Tokyo has High Speed Trains, was this omitted for your argument to carry additional weight?

By JGW905

Although HS2 was never coming to Liverpool, and you can argue its not needed anywhere in the north, for a few extra minutes; what is needed, is West – East, LIVERPOOL – HUMBER freight / trade capacity, with hubs in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.
I think the writting was on the wall at the off, that HS2 would not be built, BUT I would not bet against ONE of the lines remaining as some very expensive compromise. So it wil be a fight between Leeds and Manchester. Divide and conquer is what its all about!

By Billy

@Anonymous suggesting that Tokyo is a A++ city. See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globalization_and_World_Cities_Research_Network – it cleary states only London and NY with Tokyo being an A+ city.

Of course there are plenty of ways to categorise the power, connectivity, influence and economy of cities and the GaWC is but one. There will be others that include Tokyo and it is fine to use those if you wish. It doesn’t change anything though as the connectivity between Manchester and one of the world’s most important cities is essentual – that was the crux of the argument.


Noting the comment about Lord Berkeley; it is somewhat ironic that he is a Labour peer; and the advisory panel are mainly in favour of the project….but have no right of veto over the report recommendations (telling?). BJ announcing other investment, and doubt more to come is, in my view, a pre-cursor to this being partially cancelled (just to Birmingham?). But don’t just trash the government if Berkeley supports canning it. We are 60 years behind our infrastructure keeping pace with what we need. Plus ca change…

By Nick

Scrap it. A complete waste of time, money and houseses.

By D. Jempson

All these people moaning should grow up and buy a car.

By Dan

This is all political, It was never coming here, the only link will be to Birmingham, with a conservative Metro Mayor, then Birmingham will prosper even more and the conservatives will widen their foothold of seats, they have long given up on the North, but the fools in the northern Town Halls can’t see that, spurred on by enthusaists and political maneuvering.

By Sons of 1569

Well, at least we now have some sense from the Government. This was a Cameron-Osborne vanity project that should never have been allowed to get as far as it has at the cost of billions so far.. The amount of funding needed is already being estimated at almost £90 billion for the finished high-speed rail but you can bet the final bill will be well over that amount. Of course the ivory tower-ites in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham and elsewhere will no doubt put up a stiff case in keeping HS2 running but there is no-way the cost can be justified for what, after all, will be old transportation technology once it opens. And what will be the point when increasingly business is being conducted over the internet in the 21st century. The money should be spent on improvements and expansion of local transport and restoring the links between towns and citys and rural areas which that mad axeman Beeching isolated in large swaths of the United Kingdom. .


HS2 more about capacity than speed ….WCML full to take freight off the road we need hs2 …Liverpool docks also needs it . Hs3 is a diversion …yes we need it …but it’s 15/20 years away from spades in the ground…..so government save spending money now on hs2 for a vague promise of hs3 . The north needs both Cross rail is behind time and massively over budget….no reviews there . This is a test of the governments commitment to transportation outside the M25 ……the north must campaign hard to hs2 then hs2

By Graham

If the government are concerned about the cost and the environment then cancel Heathrow’s £30b expansion and build HS2 to Manchester airport – just 45 minutes from London.

By Nonconformist

Never will happen , only the deluded think it will.
London will never serve sad case begging cities like Manchester Leeds Sheffield that are so desperate for the breadcrumbs lol

By Anonymous

The comment re us being a wealthy nation and having rubbish rail is so true! Amazed by Italy’s rail offering in comparison to ours! We have a lot to learn.
Never thought about Boris Johnson being called BJ. I know its not his real name but very apt! Thanks Nick!

By Lizzy Baggot

Love the imagery for the new Piccadilly – everyone looks hot and young and clean! Not a great example of the demographic. It would also appear the tramp catcher has been out and captured all the Spice girls and boys……………………

By Lizzy Baggot

With EU funding about to disappear and a London centric PM in office I predict our slice of the funding pie is about to get even smaller the inevitable cancellation of HS2 will just be the start of it. BJ isn’t interested in the North.

By Lenny1968

HS2 is a waste of time and money.
The improvements do not outweigh the costs.

By Simpson

EOD and Elephant get it.

By Superhans