HS2: What the options are now according to Andy Burnham after scrapping of Manchester rail link

The high speed rail connection to Manchester was scrapped last year by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
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Plans for the HS2 rail link to come to Manchester were ended, ironically, in Manchester last year at the Conservative Party Conference. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that in lieu of the train line not being built further north of Birmingham, investment saved from this would be put back into the transport infrastructure across the north of England. 

The conference saw Mr Sunak use his final day speech to announce the cancellation of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester. This has left an opportunity for improvements to be made on the train line between the two cities, and the mayors of both regions have been discussing options.

This week, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has met with his West Midlands counterpart Andy Street to discuss rail plans that could be constructed between the two regions. The two mayors have outlined three alternatives to HS2 that are hoped to have a positive impact on both areas. 

What are the three plans outlined by the two mayors? 

The mayors used the conference to announce three alternative plans to better connect Birmingham to Manchester.  The alternatives are all aimed at improving the travel experience between Manchester and Birmingham. In a joint conference, Mr Bunrham and Mr Street said that they would assess the benefit of each. 

  1. The first of the plans was to enhance the already existing West Coast Mainline. In its entirety, the line connects Glasgow to London, but passes through several key cities in the North West including Manchester. 
  2. The second option would be to construct bypasses at the most congested parts of the line. They mayors confirmed that they are in discussions with a consortium to draw up the plans. 
  3. Their final option for improving travel between the two would be to see an entirely new line constructed between the two cities. A suggestion was that this line could even follow what would have been the HS2 route. 
An Avanti West Coast mainline train arrives at Crewe StationAn Avanti West Coast mainline train arrives at Crewe Station
An Avanti West Coast mainline train arrives at Crewe Station

Andy Burnham believes ‘doing nothing’ isn’t an option

Andy Burnham made his concerns over capacity on the line clear during the conference. In the wake of this, he added that “doing nothing” to improve the network was not an option. 

He said: “Doing nothing will be damaging to economic growth in the regions and would mean the West Midlands and Greater Manchester are set back when compared to other areas of a similar size. It would also leave the UK with a major headache in the future.”