Andy Burnham has called on the government to prioritise the construction of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) ahead of HS2.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester was speaking to set out a solution to the “HS2 riddle,” which has seen costs spiral ahead of the publication of the independent review commissioned by the government to assess the costs and benefits of Europe’s largest infrastructure project.
Estimates currently available show that costs have doubled since those originally set out, but while Andy Burnham is not opposed to cost savings on HS2, he said: “What we won’t support is making all those savings in the North.
“We cannot support a situation where the government builds a high-spec rail link between London and Birmingham, and a lesser-class rail link between the Midlands and the North.”
The Mayor went on to say that Greater Manchester supports building both HS2 and NPR in full because “London has never had to choose between rail projects. Why should we?”
In setting out his solution, Andy Burnham admits he has concerns about the HS2 plans because it neglects an east to west railway, which is needed in the area.
A four-point plan has been set out which urges the government to:-
- Expediate the construction of NPR by reassigning the HS2 team in the North to work alongside Transport for the North.
- Build the full NPR network.
- Build a new underground station at Manchester Piccadilly on an east/west alignment.
- Once NPR is complete, continue building HS2 south from Manchester, utilising the shared infrastructure between Manchester Airport and Piccadilly.
By listening to these plans, the government could bring “fast modern rail links to the North well ahead of the HS2 timetable,” reducing journey times by at least 30 minutes.
Importantly, it could deliver benefits for rail passengers in the North during the next decade rather than until the 2040s.
And critically, it would support the transition to a low carbon economy by taking traffic off the roads.