Manchester on track for HS2: High Speed Rail Bill gets green light approval despite £50billion price tag

By Tom Dyson

HS2 has been given a financial green light to develop the controversial High Speed Railway between Manchester and London at a cost of more than £50billion.

The High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill has been approved by MPs following yesterday’s vote in the House of Commons which was passed by a majority of 350 to 34.

Sir Richard Leese, labour politician and leader of Manchester City Council, approved the decision and has backed the legislation knowing that the HS2 is the only way to increase capacity on public transport and that journey times will be significantly cut.

The HS2 has finally been given the financial go-ahead, so money can be spent by the government on planning the 119-mile route and buying homes and businesses along the proposed track as a result of the bill.

Since the HS2 was established in 2009, opposition among politicians and residents have grown in numbers with many stating that money could be better spent on improving road systems and current railways, but Sir Richard welcomed the bill’s progress through parliament.

He said: “HS2 is fundamentally important to the future growth of Britain’s economy as a whole, but also enables major cities such as Manchester and its surrounding regions to compete for trade, investment and jobs on a global stage.”

Without general Labour support, there were dangers of this scheme collapsing because of a number of MPs opposing the project, with shadow chancellor Ed Balls saying that he was not prepared to write a blank cheque for the project.

With Manchester boasting the largest UK economy outside of London and the city being a central cog for rail networks, the infrastructure created would bring about thousands of jobs.

Sir Richard said: “Any rational questioning of the cost of HS2 will recognise that the benefits far exceed the costs and the cost of doing nothing is far greater.

“It’s essential that the economic benefits and the jobs it will support are realised and that this once in a century opportunity is seized.”

He also argued that the need for this transportation is vital due to the dilapidation of the railway system.

“Our rail and road networks are already badly creaking and by the 2020s the need for extra capacity will be critical.

“The only cost effective way of meeting this requirement is through a new network and it would be madness for that to be any other than high-speed.”

He was very clear in emphasising the fact there was ‘no alternative’ to increasing capacity.

The ‘Stop HS2’ group have been in discontent for a while, even more so following yesterday’s revelations.

The national campaign group which wanted to scrap proposals received great support with more than 100,000 people signing the petition which eventually made its way to Downing Street.

Joe Rukin, campaign manager for ‘Stop HS2’, said in a press release on their website: “The number of MPs who stayed away from this vote shows the battle for HS2 is far from over and yesterday’s result shows the hybrid bill is in for a rough ride.”

The HS2 will cover a significant proportion of Manchester as a seven mile long tunnel will stretch from the airport to the city centre making it one of the longest rail tunnels in the UK.

Picture courtesy of Mick Baker, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles