Sir Richard Leese hints at location decision on Manchester high speed rail station within months

By Joshua Powling, Political Correspondent

Groundbreaking plans for the location of Manchester’s high speed rail station could be announced within months, the Leader of the Council announced at an executive meeting yesterday.

Sir Richard Leese, speaking at Manchester Town Hall, also endorsed the view that the station would have to be in central Manchester, dismissing the idea of a parkway station.

He told councillors that not supporting the high speed rail network could have dire consequences for the prosperity of the city and surrounding region.

He said: “By the end of this decade economic growth will start to choke.”

Any compromise around incremental improvements to the West Coast Main line would be opposed by the City Council, which characterised the 1998-2008 modernisation project as causing a decade of disruption.

“We can’t afford for these sorts of compromises to happen again,” Councillor Leese added.

Consultation on a high speed rail line started in February 2011 and close tomorrow, with a decision expected from the Department for Transport by the end of the year.

The proposals would see a high speed rail route from London through the West Midlands to Manchester and then Leeds, cutting journey times between the capital and Manchester to less than 80 minutes.

An executive report on the high speed rail consultation plans noted that it had the potential to generate significant economic benefits for the city, and its strong economy made it a natural destination for high speed services.

Philip Hammond visited Manchester on Tuesday, and Councillor Leese praised the work of the Secretary of State for Transport, saying that he had shown courage in facing down opposition from within his own party.

He also met yesterday with Greg Clark, the newly created Minister for Cities, also minister for decentralisation and planning within the Department for Communities and Local Government.

In his weekly blog, the Leader of the Council, in praising the creation of the new post, said: “Hopefully this is a welcome sign that government recognises the importance of our major cities as economic generators, and I certainly welcome the opportunity to talk to him so early into his new role about the tools we need in the cities to maximise our ability to create jobs and get local people into those jobs.”

Mr Clark will be working with England’s Core Cities Group, comprised of Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Councillor Leese echoed the findings made by Volterra in a report to the Core Cities Group, stating that the project could lead to 60,000 jobs in the city and a quarter of a million in the city region.

Last week a right-wing think tank, the Institute for Economic Affairs, dismissed government plans as a vanity project, the latest of a long line of government big-project disasters.

It characterised the plans as a white elephant and said that the scheme, costing an estimated £34bn, the equivalent of £1,000 per taxpayer, would see too few people benefit.

More related stories:

Northern Rail confesses to Manchester route issues

Budget backs £85m rail development in Manchester

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