What local leaders want to change about HS2 plans for Manchester Piccadilly

The local authority is setting out a number of changes it wants to see in the plans for the arrival of the controversial high-speed rail network in the city.

Manchester City Council has prepared a report outlining its criticisms of the plans for HS2 in the city centre and the changes it would like to see.

A political row has broken out in recent months between the city’s leaders and national Government over the arrival of the controversial high-speed rail network.

The proposal currently is for an above-ground station at Piccadilly but the council says this would waste land that could be put to other use and could cut off parts of the city from the centre because of the huge concrete viaducts that will be needed to bring the trains. The local preference is for an underground public transport terminus instead.

The council will now put its report before the city’s leading councillors and says it wants to set up a formal petition to the Government as well.

What is in the council’s HS2 report?

The council says the issues with the current plans for HS2 in the city centre are:

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The station at Piccadilly being above ground rather than underground. The council says the station currently being planned for would be at full capacity from day one of its opening and unable to cope with future growth while also providing a poor welcome to the city. The town hall is also concerned it would also swallow up more prime development land, which could support thousands of new jobs by being put to other uses, and create the need for extensive and intrusive overground infrastructure.

• Piccadilly car parking. The council is calling for a substantial reduction in the 2,000 car parking spaces proposed for the new station, which it says will fly in the face of policies to reduce car journeys into the city centre and supporting sustainable alternatives instead. The council instead wants to see the creation of a transport interchange including bus and coach facilities along with improved cycling and walking facilities.

Manchester Piccadilly station

Metrolink issues. As it stands the Ashton line, which runs past the Etihad Stadium and the new Co-op Live arena, will close for around two years during the HS2 construction process and be replaced by buses. The council says this is “totally unacceptable” and wants Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to be able to build a new Piccadilly Central tram stop. It also wants a new Metrolink depot at Ashton Moss so the Ashton line can remain open throughout any building work.

Highways issues at Pin Mill Brow. The council says the proposed junction layout is too big and conflicts with transport, zero carbon and air quality priorities while also taking up too much land, failng to provide adequate cycling and walking facilities. It wants a smaller and better-integrated junction instead.

Issues with ventshafts. The tunnel which will carry HS2 from Davenport Green in Trafford to Ardwick will require a number of large ventilation shafts. The council says the one proposed for right next to Birchfields Primary School in Fallowfield is “unacceptable” and needs moving. The council also wants mitigating measures for the planned ventshaft at Palatine Road in Withington, to ensure it does not create issues in the flood zone, and the ventshaft at Chancellor Lane and associated headhouse in Wilmslow Road to ensure it does not impact negatively on car parking and for The Christie cancer hospital.

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The council has also raised issues with the HS2 plans for Manchester Airport, including worries about problems with traffic and using active transport around the junction connecting the station to the road network and concern over the plan to use shuttle buses between the HS2 train station and the airport itself.

In addition Manchester City Council says it wants specific measures to be put in place to ensure local people and firms get as many of the construction jobs as possible and for HS2 Ltd to commit to supporting businesses who are disrupted by all the building work.

What is the timetable for all this to happen?

The council’s update report will be considered by the executive when it meets on 22 July. The council then intends to raise all the issues outlined in a formal petition to the Government in August.

The High Speed Crewe-Manchester Bill, which paves the way for HS2’s eventual arrival in the city, had its second reading in parliament in June. It now enters a stage where affected parties, which includes the city of Manchester, can highlight any concerns and urge those in charge of the project to address them.

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Any issue which the council cannot reach agreement on with HS2 Ltd will have to be decided by a House of Commons Select Committee.

The proposal for a new HS2 station at Manchester Piccadilly created by architects Weston Williamson and Partners

Other Greater Manchester authorities and Cheshire East are also planning to submit petitions about their concerns over the project.

Manchester City Council has been publicly expressing its disagreement with the HS2 plans for the city centre for several months now, with the huge concrete structures that will bring trains into Manchester being described as “unsightly”.

The council’s position has also been supported by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. A leading architects’ firm with an office in Manchester also went public with its own ideas for what the station should look like.

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What has been said about the report and petition?

Coun Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “HS2 is a once-in-a-century opportunity and we will keep fighting to ensure we get the best possible version of it for Manchester, the region and the country as a whole. It’s a huge public investment which has the potential to deliver enormous positive results.

Manchester City Council leader Coun Bev Craig

“Any infrastructure project on this scale is very complex and will involve some measure of disruption during its construction in order to deliver wider benefits. We have consistently supported HS2, which will bring vital capacity to our clogged railway network and has the potential to create huge opportunities.

“But we want to ensure that is delivered in the best way possible which maximises the benefits for Manchester people and businesses, minimises disruption and futureproofs the plans.”