There was a mixed reaction to the details announced this morning for the preferred routes for High Speed 2 line from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
Under the plans launched for consultation Manchester is to get two new stations whereas the proposed HS2 station for Crewe was rejected and there is no direct link to Liverpool.
The new lines totalling 211 miles will include five new stations:
- Manchester city centre alongside Piccadilly station
- Manchester Airport, new interchange station alongside M56, between Warburton Green and Davenport Green
- East Midlands, at Toton between Nottingham and Derby, one mile off M1
- Sheffield, at Meadowhall, connected to the city centre station by a five-minute rail link
- Leeds, at New Lane, in South Bank area of the city centre, connected to current main station by a walkway
Construction of the 140-mile southern phase one route between London and Birmingham is due to start in four years and opens to passengers in 13 years from now. The routes announced today, running from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, will open six years after that.
Consultation on the proposed routes published today will be brought forward to start in 2013 rather than in 2014. The Department for Transport will look into whether the project can be fast-tracked so that the second phase of HS2 is completed ahead of the scheduled completion date of 2032.
The government claimed construction of the railway line, its maintenance and new stations will create 100,000 jobs.
Critics argue that the cost of the project, estimated at £30bn, is too high, the new lines will pass through countryside and the shorter journey times to London will be counterproductive for the North, making it easier for business to head south to the capital.
The proposed journey times from Manchester city centre will be 41 minutes to Birmingham and 1 hour 8 minutes to London Euston.
Following the announcement, a joint statement was issued by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester City Council and the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, along with Manchester Airport and the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership in support for the new rail links link with London and Birmingham.
Cllr Andrew Fender, chairman of Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: "Today's announcement isn't just about faster trains. High speed rail will create up to 30,000 station-supported jobs in Manchester and help to drive productivity in the region, bridging the economic gap between the North and the South."
Cllr Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "We see high-speed rail as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the rail network, which will not only tackle the West Coast line's capacity issues – including the lack of capacity for local commuter and freight services – but will unlock the economic potential of the North West and create much-needed jobs."
The proposed stop at Crewe was not in the preferred route plan but there will be improvements to speed up the West Coast Mainline from Crewe to Liverpool and Scotland.
Christine Gaskell, chairman of Cheshire & Warrington LEP, added: "We support the HS2 project and believe it is a visionary solution. Having a hub station at Crewe would have been our preference however the decision to extend HS2 through its second phase to Manchester is incredibly good news for the North West of England and will generate economic growth."
Liverpool City Region LEP chairman Robert Hough welcomed the prospect of Liverpool-London journey times of 1hr 36mins but added: "The proposed journey times, and the additional high speed connectivity we will achieve, have the potential to transform the way this city region can do business. However, it is also clear that other regions and cities will benefit sooner from earlier connections and others by having direct links. The risk that locations in the Midlands become effectively annexed to Greater London must be understood and avoided if the benefits are to close the North-South divide and regenerate regional economies. Ultimately, if Liverpool is to reap the same benefits the city region must continue to make the case for a direct link served by regular high speed services. We will be seeking further consultation."