Government unveil High Speed 2 line to slash train times and give Manchester ‘unparalleled opportunity’ to thrive

By Glen Keogh

Thousands of new jobs and greatly improved connections from Manchester to the rest of the country are just two of the benefits thanks to a new high speed rail line.

High Speed 2 (HS2) will almost halve journey times from Manchester Piccadilly to Birmingham and London.

Designs unveiled today reveal five planned stops on the 211-mile Y-shaped extension of the already proposed High Speed 1 line connecting Birmingham and London.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin who unveiled the proposals alongside David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne, said: “High Speed Rail is an unparalleled opportunity to secure a step-change in Britain’s competitiveness and this government will do everything possible to ensure that Manchester benefits by getting the connections it needs and deserves to thrive.”

New stations will be built at Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport, slashing journey times from Manchester to Birmingham to 41 minutes from 88 minutes and London down to one hour eight minutes.

The Department for Transport said the line should be completed by 2032, six years after completion of the first phase.

Opportunities from construction on the line alone are expected to create 10,000 jobs with the Government estimating that HS2 will support over 100,000 jobs across Britain.

The line extension to Manchester and Leeds is designed to cut journey times, ease overcrowding and boost regional business.

An interchange station at Manchester Airport will mean passengers can travel to and from London in 59 minutes, compared to the current two hours 24 minutes.

Further redevelopment of Piccadilly Station will also enhance connectivity to the Metrolink as well as adding significant new car parking.

There will also be the potential for direct trains from Manchester to Paris and Brussels via a connection to High Speed 1.

However, the rail link has met criticism from countryside campaigners and residents and MPs affected along its proposed route.

They argue that they will not enjoy the economic or personal benefits of a station and some opposed the original plans on HS1 on environmental grounds- a pattern expected to be repeated this time around.

Osborne acknowledged widespread opposition to the line from communities along its route which face ‘very difficult’ disruption to their lives, but said the economic benefits were ‘pretty compelling’.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I think it is the engine for growth in the North and the Midlands of this country. I think it is going to create tens of thousands of jobs in Manchester and across our great cities.

“In the end, as a country, you have got to make those long-term choices. If our predecessors hadn’t decided to build the railways in the Victorian times or the motorways in the middle part of the 20th century, then we wouldn’t have those things today.”

Conservatives in the Chancellor’s Tatton constituency have already indicated that they will object to any plans to route the line through parts of the Cheshire countryside.

Iain Johnston, a nationally-recognised expert on HS2 has also warned that property and businesses along the line which will run under Wythenshawe, Northenden, Withington, Rusholme and Longsight before arriving in Manchester Piccadilly will see a marked devaluation in their market price.

But the enormous potential the route will offer to cities like Manchester has prompted Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to bring forward consultation on the proposed routes to start this year rather than next.

He has also ordered the DfT to look into whether the project can be fast-tracked so that the second phase of HS2 is completed ahead of the scheduled completion date of 2032.

The proposals have been welcomed by local business leaders and politicians who acknowledge the opportunities quicker links to the capital will provide.

Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell said: “This is great for Manchester.

“Now that the route is confirmed we should start to see the benefit of increased investment in Manchester. I am determined to keep a close eye on the project to make sure that the Government doesn’t fall behind and threaten that investment.”

Picture courtesy of altogetherfool, with thanks

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