HS2 Bill is ‘landmark moment’ for North West’s rail connections, says Shapps
A “landmark moment” in improving the North West’s rail connections will happen on Monday when the Bill to extend HS2 to Manchester is laid in Parliament, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
Phase 2b of the high-speed railway will cut travel times by around 55 minutes for journeys between London and Manchester, and up to 45 minutes for trips between Birmingham and Manchester, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).
It will also at least double capacity on those routes, the DfT said.
Extending HS2 from Crewe to Manchester was included in the Government’s £96 billion Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) published in November, although it has been part of the high-speed rail project since it was given the go-ahead by the coalition government in January 2012.
The IRP caused outrage among many northern leaders because it included the scrapping of HS2’s eastern leg between the East Midlands and Leeds, and a failure to use new lines for the full Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project boosting east-west connections.
But the Government insists the IRP will result in similar benefits from previous plans, and they will be delivered quicker and with better value for taxpayers’ money.
Mr Shapps said: “We are determined to improve transport connections and level up communities across the country, and this Bill marks a landmark moment as we bring HS2 to Manchester and lay the foundations for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“Our £96 billion investment in rail in the North and Midlands and in connecting them to London will bring communities together, create thousands of jobs, and make towns and cities in these key areas more attractive to business up to 10 years quicker than under any previous plans.
“The IRP is the blueprint for the Government’s commitment to building better transport links, generating prosperity and opportunity across the North and Midlands, bringing benefits up to 10 years sooner than previously planned, all while delivering on levelling up the country.”
The Bill will allow HS2 tracks to be installed and new stations and junctions to be built at Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport.
The line is expected to open between 2035 and 2040.
Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “We remain committed to working with the Government to bring HS2 to our city-region. But we remain of the view that this is the wrong plan, both for Greater Manchester and for the North as a whole.
“Building HS2 on the surface at Manchester Piccadilly means the new station will be at full capacity from day one. It means the new train services from Liverpool and Leeds having to reverse out. And it also means forever losing prime development land and the economic opportunity that goes with it.
“We also again have to ask again: why is Greater Manchester the only part of the country being asked to make a substantial financial contribution to the cost of HS2?
“We believe there is a better plan which would do much more to level up the North of England with the South.
“An underground station would be an investment in building a bigger Northern economy and would pay for itself over time. It could also help deliver an entirely new line between Manchester and Leeds, which is what we were promised.
“We call on the Government to listen to the North and work with us to get right solution. This decision will have a huge bearing on the future of the North for the rest of this century and the next and it is vital that it is not sold short.
“We will be pressing the case for major changes to the Bill and seeking the support of MPs on all sides.”