UK parliament says HS2 for Manchester remains on the agenda
Will Britain’s high speed railway come to Manchester? There is still a massive cloud over the prospect of HS2 ever reaching the North West of England, but the company set up to deliver the huge project is pressing ahead with preliminary plans.
A public consultation process has opened in Manchester, on proposed alternations to the plan and route specification. Just how the tracks will reach into the city centre is still up for debate. HS2 Ltd, the company building what they describe as Britain’s new low-carbon high-speed railway, has put forward a second set of proposed changes to the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill, the legal document which has been introduced to Parliament – the formal process by which matters of state are debated in the House of Commons.
HS2 is the somewhat controversial high speed railway project in Britain, and a hot topic of conversation, especially for those along its core 120-mile (182 kilometre) route. Construction is already well underway between west London and central Birmingham. Recently, the UK government has “paused” work on parts of the project, slowing down the construction programme by several years and halting work on significant parts of the project, including the mammoth redevelopment of Euston Station in central London. There remains much opposition to extension of the line, to reach Crewe (for a direct connection to the busy West Coast Main Line) and to Manchester, the booming city in North West England.
Common parliamentary process
Tunnelling may be in doubt, but the legislative process continues to be optimistic about bringing HS2 all the way to Manchester. “The submission of Additional Provision 2 (AP2) is an important milestone in the parliamentary process”, says HS2. “It keeps HS2 on track to open the Crewe – Manchester extension between 2035 and 2041”, says a statement from the company. “[It helps ensure] zero carbon rail services extend to Manchester’s two new dedicated HS2 stations at Manchester Airport and Piccadilly [station in the city centre].” The High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill, which seeks powers to extend and operate the new high-speed network to Manchester, was submitted to Parliament in January 2022. The first set of proposed changes to the Bill, known as Additional Provision 1 (AP1), was introduced six months later.
Changes to so-called hybrid bills are a common part of parliamentary business. It is often once a bill has been presented that it enters into the public spotlight, and can raise questions about the matter in hand. that can often mean the parliamentary promoters take on-board public opinion and present amendments, such as is the case here. HS2, for their part, say the amended proposals reflect the ongoing work to ensure it builds the best railway in the best way. This includes developing the design for the railway, acting on new information, and assessing feedback from individuals and communities affected by the construction proposals. One year on from the submission of AP1, communities are now being invited to view the latest set of proposed changes and have their say on the supporting documentation through a public consultation.
HS2’s construction is currently supporting more than 28,500 jobs and over 3,000 UK-based businesses, including 190 businesses in Manchester and the North West of England, who have already won work supplying materials, products and services. “Extending the HS2 network to Manchester will vastly improve connectivity between the UK’s major towns and cities, while freeing up vital capacity on the existing rail network for more local and regional rail services”, said Stephen Smith, Head of Consultation and Engagement for HS2’s Phase 2b programme. “This latest set of design changes reflects our ongoing commitment to minimise disruption during the construction and operational phases. Feedback from communities plays a vital role in the design process and we encourage people to have their say before the consultation closes.”
The public consultation focuses on variations to the plans, which outline any new, different or removed significant environmental effects resulting from the proposed changes. Among a range of new proposals to accommodate the line, are such works as relocating overhead high voltage power lines around a local designated wildlife site, and ground water handling around a nature site of special scientific interest. industrial works include revised integration with existing Metrolink trams services. The consultation is open now and closes 11:45 on 31 August 2023. The parliamentary process is expected to take several years.