Mayor discusses HS2 alternative with minister

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham met with Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Wednesday.

Neil Lancefield
Wednesday 31 January 2024 15:36 GMT
Privately-funded alternatives to a scrapped section of HS2 have been discussed by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Transport Secretary Mark Harper (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Privately-funded alternatives to a scrapped section of HS2 have been discussed by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Transport Secretary Mark Harper (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Archive)

Privately-funded alternatives to a scrapped section of HS2 have been discussed by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Transport Secretary Mark Harper.

Mr Burnham told MPs they had a “productive” discussion, as he stressed doing nothing would create “a major transport headache”.

In October last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelled the plan to extend HS2 between the West Midlands and Manchester amid spiralling costs.

It's good that the Government is at least listening to what we're saying

Andy Burnham

Mr Burnham and his West Midlands counterpart Andy Street – who also attended the meeting – have commissioned a group of private sector organisations to consider how to finance major rail improvements between Handsacre Junction, Staffordshire – where HS2 will end – and High Leigh, Cheshire, which is on the planned route for Northern Powerhouse Rail between Manchester and Liverpool.

The coalition is chaired by Sir David Higgins, a former chairman of HS2 Ltd, and includes businesses such as Arup, EY, Arcadis and Mace.

Mr Burnham told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “We’ve had a constructive discussion with the Secretary of State this morning about the work that we’re doing.

“It’s good that the Government is at least listening to what we’re saying.

“Into February and then March I think the outputs of the work the group is doing will become more known.”

But as 2030 and 2040 comes round, there is just no way on God's earth that the M6 and the West Coast mainline are capable of servicing the growth that we're seeing in Greater Manchester and in the West Midlands

Andy Burnham

He went on: “If we do nothing, we will have a major transport headache.

“You could argue we’ve got it now anyway, but as 2030 and 2040 come around, there is just no way on God’s earth that the M6 and the West Coast mainline are capable of servicing the growth that we’re seeing in Greater Manchester and in the West Midlands.

“There has to be another option for rail connectivity between the two cities.

“We’re just looking at those possibilities, looking at a modest upgrade to the West Coast mainline or something more substantial, and how private finance might play a role in that.”

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