'Landmark moment' as bill to bring HS2 to Manchester put before parliament

The controversial HS2 project has moved another step closer after a bill for the Northern section was laid out in parliament on Monday.

The second phase is said to cut travel times by around 55 minutes for journeys between London and Manchester, and up to 45 minutes for trips between Birmingham and Manchester.

It will also at least double capacity on those routes, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).

The Bill will allow HS2 tracks to be installed and new stations and junctions to be built at Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport.

City leaders in Manchester want HS2 to arrive in the city underground instead of the current overground scheme.

But Manchester City Council's leader is calling for changes to the planned HS2 route to Piccadilly and the station which will become its home in the North.

Councillor Bev Craig is warning that the proposed new overground station, to accommodate HS2 and improved northern rail links, would squander some of the huge potential benefits of the once-in-a-lifetime project.  

She said: “We welcome the fact that HS2 is still coming to Manchester.

"We know that we might be perceived as fortunate relative to other northern town and cities which are also pressing cases for rail improvements.

“But that only makes it all the more important that what we maximise the benefits of what is being delivered, not just for the city but for the North as a whole. "

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.

Credit: PA

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said he does not agree with the proposed plan and is calling on the government to "listen to the North" to get "right solution."

The Mayor said: "Building HS2 on the surface at Manchester Piccadilly means the new station will be at full capacity from day one.

"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."

Manchester Piccadilly station.

Transport Secretary Grant 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.

"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 government says it is a "landmark moment", but campaigners continue to fight the plans, with demonstrations taking place across the country. 

Environmental activists Stop HS2 North staged a protest in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, close to where the proposed plans will happen.

A spokesperson said it is part of a nationwide 'day of action', with events held along the line in Manchester, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire and London – with a particular focus on Birmingham and Manchester.

John, of Stop HS2 North, said they are concerned its construction will impact negatively on the environmental and said, financially, it's a "bottomless pit".

"We're certainly not opposed to train travel at all. Train travel can be green, HS2 isn't", John explains.

"By HS2's own admission, it will not be carbon neutral for a 120 years - it's estimated life scale.

"The embedded carbon from construction is so vast it negates any benefits whatsoever from it being an eclectic train."

The line is expected to open between 2035 and 2040.

CGI show's HS2 racing through the countryside