Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has called on ministers to build the east-west Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) before the section of HS2 from the midlands to Manchester.
It follows reports that Boris Johnson is set announce his backing for HS2, despite the Department for Transport repeatedly claiming that it had not received a final copy of the ‘independent’ Oakervee review into the controversial £106bn project.
Mr Burnham argued that HS2 has been designed as a north to south terminus station at Manchester’s Piccadilly station, and that this ‘simply isn’t the right solution for the vital east-west connections across the north’.
He said: ‘It cannot be right that such critical connections and capacity will be hampered by bolting on NPR to HS2 infrastructure. This will mean second class east to west services, and a second class station at Manchester Piccadilly.
He added: ‘The right solution for Piccadilly is the right solution for the whole of the North.’
However, sub-national transport body Transport for the North did not comment on Mr Burnham’s suggestion that NPR should be built first.
A spokesperson said: ‘TfN has always been clear that Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 need to be delivered in full. We need both if we are to release the Northern economy from the straightjacket of poor infrastructure that has held it back for so long.
‘We will wait and see what the Oakervee review has recommended and how the Government responds. We will continue to urge the Government to be ambitious in seeking to rebalance the UK economy, to commit in full to HS2 and NPR and to work together to deliver these improvements more quickly.’
Mr Burnham said that a report for Manchester City Council by Bechtel found that a shorter tunnel from Manchester Airport to central Manchester would release ‘much needed investment to design the kind of station we need Piccadilly to be’.
He set out a four point plan:
1. Expedite the construction of Northern Powerhouse Rail by reassigning the HS2 team in the North to work alongside Transport for the North. This could deliver benefits for rail passengers in the North in the 2030s rather than having to wait until the 2040s.
2. Build the full NPR network – connecting Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly, Bradford and Leeds.
3. Build a new, modern, underground station at Manchester Piccadilly on an east / west alignment - to ensure the city's rail system is future-proofed for generations to come.
4. Once NPR is complete, continue building HS2 south from Manchester, utilising the shared infrastructure between Manchester Airport and Piccadilly.