Uproar at ‘unsightly’ new train station proposed for HS2 in Manchester

The Government’s preferred course of action at the moment is to build an above-ground station at Piccadilly but the city council isn

Ministers are being called on to rethink plans for a station above ground at Manchester Piccadilly to accommodate the arrival of HS2 in the city, along with proposed improved rail links.

Manchester City Council says the scheme as devised by the Government does not make the most of the opportunities upgrading public transport infrastructure could bring.

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It said eastern parts of the city would be left overshadowed by enormous viaducts and the impact on the city centre of the construction phase would be huge and could possibly cost thousands of jobs.

Instead it wants to convince ministers of the merits of building an underground station in the city centre to accommodate the new train lines.

An impression of the huge concrete viaducts which could dominate parts of east Manchester if the plans for an above-ground HS2 station go ahead

Going underground? What are the plans for HS2 in Manchester?

The Government is about to deposit the HS2 Bill, paving the way for construction on the Crewe to Manchester phase of the project.

At the moment that includes building a new station next to the existing Manchester Piccadilly.

The local authority says the station would sit at the heart of the north of England’s rail network and HS2 as a whole would have an important role to play in rebalancing the national economy.

Why does Manchester City Council want an underground station instead?

Manchester City Council says the arrival of HS2 in Manchester is something which the authorities have one opportunity to get right, with decisions made having implications for the next 100 years.

The local authority is strongly in favour of the controversial high-speed line, saying it will provide vital extra capacity on the rail network, improve connections between the north of England, the West Midlands and London and act as a catalyst for economic improvement.

It also says HS2 could in the long-term help achieve emissions reductions and environmental improvements by providing an attractive alternative to travelling by car.

With all this in mind, though, the council says it does not believe the current plans for Piccadilly represent the best possible outcome for the project, and the city would be better off with a subterranean station.

It says an overground station would swallow up land in the city centre which could be used for other things and would cause huge disruption to businesses in the immediate area while the construction work was taking place.

The council says its own research indicates 2,600 jobs could go around the overground station while it was being built and the station would rob the city centre of land which could potentially support about 14,000 new jobs.

Manchester Piccadilly station Credit: Shutterstock

It also said the huge concrete viaducts which would bring trains in and out of Piccadilly would dominate and overshadow parts of the eastern side of Manchester, look unsightly and hamper connections between parts of the city.

The council says research also suggests the above-ground station would be operating at full capacity from day one, with no scope for increased passenger numbers and raising the likelihood of reliability problems.

What has been said about it?

Coun Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, 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.

“The overground plan is the wrong one. It will be cheaper to build in the short-term but in the long term it will cost the region’s economy much more in missed opportunities.

Coun Bev Craig, who has been appointed the new leader of Manchester City Council

“It will also cause greater disruption while it is constructed and leave a legacy of unsightly viaducts and other overground infrastructure which limits our ability to create new homes or jobs.

“Restricting the potential of what will be one of the best-connected places in the country makes no sense at all.

“Nor does creating a station with capacity restraints which will undermine its reliability and resilience from day one.

“We urge the Government and HS2 Ltd to reconsider the compelling case for an underground station.

(Graphic: Mark Hall/JPI Media)

“This would not only solve the problems posed by the overground option but would create a station empowered to support growth, jobs and other opportunities and help realise the Government’s proclaimed levelling up ambitions.

“If they want the option which delivers the greatest benefits for years to come, they need to look below the surface.”

GM Mayor Andy Burnham has also previously backed calls for an underground station, and Labour MP for Blackley & Broughton, Graham Stringer, dubbed the overground viaduct s ‘HS2 on stilts’.

What has the Government said?

The Government has previously snubbed call from local Labour politicians to make it an underground station.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons in November: “It’s the case that we need to spend money, we can only spend the same money once, we can only spend it as wisely as possible. If you spend £6bn or £7bn building the station underground at Manchester, you then take away from Liverpool, or Leeds, or Hull, or some of the other places who are calling for money.”