Stop HS2: Manchester protest planned this weekend by campaigners against high-speed rail network
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Protestors against the HS2 rail network will be out and about in Manchester speaking to residents and staging public events this weekend.
Stop HS2 will highlight the environmental cost of the high-speed infrastructure project and also speak about what it says will be years of serious disruption and consequences for Manchester if it goes ahead.
The group has previously organised a protest at Manchester Piccadilly station against the scheme, which has recently been the source of a high-profile row between the national Government and the city-region’s leaders.
This weekend’s protests will also spread the word about the consultation taking place on the section of the route including Manchester, which the campaigners are urging as many people as possible to take part in.
What is the Stop HS2 event happening in Manchester this weekend?
Protestors are calling the event which will take place on Saturday (19 March) Love Manchester: Stop HS2.
They will start in Longsight in Crowcroft Park from 10am where they will be speaking to residents and businesses.
The protest will then move on to Piccadilly Gardens, starting there at about 12pm.
The campaigners will have a huge white elephant with them to highlight their opinion of the controversial transport project.
They will be speaking to people about the scheme, answering questions and urging them to have their say in the consultation on the Crewe to Manchester section of the route which ends on 31 March.
Why is the protest taking place?
Stop HS2 claims the high-speed rail line comes with an enormous environmental cost with habitats and green spaces being destroyed along the line and believes the £108bn cost of HS2 could have been better spent on improving rail links across the country.
It also says that the plans to bring the trains into Manchester will come with a heavy price tag for the city and its communities.
Stop HS2 claims there will be years of road closures and traffic disruption, including closures on the Metrolink tram lines, while the construction work takes place.
It says Ardwick will have a tunnel just five metres below existing houses if the proposals go ahead, and that vent shafts will have to be built near a primary school and a retail park in Fallowfield.
Stop HS2 fears there will be negative impacts on the area from the building work including higher pollution levels and the potential loss of jobs and businesses at the retail hub.
Where is the HS2 project up to and what has been said about it in Manchester?
The bill for the Crewe to Manchester route was submitted to Parliament on 24 January this year and is currently awaiting debate by MPs.
The public is being invited to respond to two documents, the environmental statement and the equality impact assessment.
The feedback from this will then be considered by Parliament.
The proposals for the Crewe to Manchester section include new high-speed stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly as well as infrastructure required for the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme and provision for new Metrolink tram routes.
HS2 recently sparked a major debate in Manchester when leading political figures including Manchester City Council leader Coun Bev Craig and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham criticised proposals for the HS2 hub in the city centre to be above ground next to the existing Piccadilly station.
They say this would involve huge ‘unsightly’ viaducts being built which would effectively screen off communities such as Ardwick from the city centre and would waste city centre space that could be put to other uses.
Instead they want the Government to consider building an underground station similar to the one for HS2 at Old Oak, saying this could then connect the high speed line to other routes serving the north of England.
What have the HS2 protestors said?
A Stop HS2 spokesperson said: “HS2 has not done enough to listen to residents’ opinions; they’re hoping to sneak through all the legislation, and at the last minute bring all their chaos to communities who stand in the way.
“This project doesn’t only obliterate the natural environment, it brings air pollution, it shakes foundations causing cracks to buildings, and the irritation of light and noise disturbed sleep persisting for long periods of time brings stress and impacts mental health.
“These issues will be felt most acutely in urban areas due to population density; this is a nightmare in the making.
“This is not Levelling Up, but more than a decade of mass upheaval and costly misery. HS2 will bring chaos, blighting lives, journeys and neighbourhoods for years to come.”
What has HS2 said?
Encouraging residents to have their say on the consultation Leonie Dubois, HS2’s Head of consultation and engagement, said: “Extending HS2 to Manchester will benefit towns and cities all the way up to Scotland, bringing the UK’s economic regions closer together and increasing capacity on the rail network.
“This will be the first new transport corridor constructed into Manchester since the 1970s, and alongside the benefits that HS2 brings, the network provides the vital infrastructure needed to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail, enhancing rail services, connectivity and economic growth for communities right across the North.”
Manchester City Council has also been approached for comment.