Square One: HS2 buys second Manchester city centre site as it prepares to build new train station

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The move suggests plans for an above-ground station are moving forward, even though this is not the preferred option of Manchester’s local leaders.

HS2 has purchased a second Manchester city centre site as it moves forward with its plans for a new high-speed rail station.

The concern behind the controversial public transport project has bought Square One on Travis Street.

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HS2 says the move is vital to creating a new station in Manchester at the side of the existing Piccadilly station, which should be open some time between 2035 and 2040.

The plan, though, has put HS2 and the Government on a collision course with Manchester’s leaders, who want to see an underground hub built to maximise the potential of the rail network expansion.

What has HS2 done in Manchester city centre?

HS2 has secured an agreement with Bruntwood to buy the Square One site on Travis Street.

It is the second piece of real estate bought by the high-speed rail network following the purchase of the Store Street site in April 2021.

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HS2 will not be heading to Leeds.HS2 will not be heading to Leeds.
HS2 will not be heading to Leeds.

The acquisitions have been made on behalf of the Department for Transport and both sites are described by HS2 as pivotal to creating the new high-speed train station in Manchester.

The plan is for the station to be adjacent to Piccadilly, with six platforms at surface level for both HS2 and future services which could be created under the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) programme.

The proposals also include a new four-platform Metrolink tram station beneath the HS2 station.

The first passengers are set to arrive and depart from the station some time between 2035 and 2040, HS2 says.

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Even the earliest preparatory work on the site is unlikely to get under way before 2025.

HS2 says it has agreed leasehold terms with Square One’s existing tenants to enable them to remain working there until the site is required.

Why could this be controversial?

HS2’s plan for an above-ground station in the middle of Manchester has not gone down well with the city’s political leaders.

Both Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Manchester City Council leader Coun Bev Craig have previously urged the Government to rethink the project and consider an underground rail hub beneath Piccadilly instead.

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

They said this would cause far less disruption to the middle of Manchester during the construction phase, make it much easier to connect new lines to the station as they are built to connect the north of England and free up space around Piccadilly to be put to other uses to aid the city’s economy.

There are also concerns about several aspects of the plans for getting the HS2 lines into Manchester above-ground, with fears that the eastern part of the city centre could be dominated by huge and ugly viaducts which would also effectively cut off areas such as Ardwick.

The prospect of suspensions of some Metrolink tram services during the works has also sparked concern.

However, it was reported in the trade press that transport secretary Grant Shapps had categorically ruled the underground station idea out on cost grounds.

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What has been said about HS2’s latest acquisition?

Ruth Todd, chief commercial officer at HS2, said:“Following submission of the Bill earlier this year, seeking powers to construct and operate the railway between Crewe and Manchester, this acquisition represents another major milestone in our programme to bring high-speed rail to the North.

“HS2’s purchase of Square One is a vote of confidence for investors locally and internationally to leverage the wider regeneration potential of the surrounding area, knowing that Manchester is set to become so brilliantly connected.”

Pete Bearpark, asset management director at Bruntwood, said: “We are committed to creating thriving places and communities, and after 15 years under Bruntwood stewardship, we have agreed to the sale of Square One and the land surrounding it to HS2 in advance of a formal compulsory purchase process.

“We will use the proceeds to continue to reinvest into regional cities to drive economic growth and have a positive impact on businesses and communities.”

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