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Councils praise northern plans for HS2, but still crave greater clarity 

Northern councils have praised the confirmation of the new HS2 Phase 2 route between Birmingham and the North of England, with Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield City Councils all welcoming the announcement.

The new HS2 western leg will include two Manchester stops, travelling from Crewe to Manchester Airport then on to a new station to be built next to Manchester Piccadilly station.

The DfT has also confirmed the plans released last year to remodel Leeds station into an integrated ‘Yorkshire Hub’ to accommodate HS2 alongside ‘classic’ regional and local services. However, the route to include Sheffield will be subject to a consultation.

Reinforcement of Greater Manchester’s economic potential

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is already preparing strategies in order to maximise the impact that HS2 will bring to the region, including making a commitment to major infrastructure improvements at Manchester Piccadilly and Airport stations.

The GMCA estimates that reducing travel times and increased business productivity through improved connectivity will bring up to 180,000 new jobs to the region by 2040 and add £1.3bn to Greater Manchester’s gross value added (GVA).

It is hoped that the development of Manchester Piccadilly would support around 4,500 new homes and over 700,000sq m of commercial and retail space, while an integrated HS2 station at Manchester Airport would improve the airport’s accessibility and already significant importance.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, praised the news, saying that the confirmation of the route and the accompanying infrastructure improvements should be seen as a “reinforcement in the confidence of [Greater Manchester’s] economic potential”.

“Today’s announcement is welcome confirmation that Greater Manchester will play a key role in HS2, and become a hub for rail improvements that will help support a sound economic future for the whole of the north through Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“We’ll continue to work closely with government to help support the project and begin to drive the major transformational projects that will support HS2 in Greater Manchester.”

Interim Greater Manchester mayor Tony Lloyd echoed Leese, describing the confirmation of the route as a “major milestone” which would be welcomed by people across the Greater Manchester region, and urged the project to go ahead without delay.

He too, however, expressed his hopes that the announcement will be followed by progress on Northern Powerhouse Rail, also known as HS3, due to connect the cities of the North.

“If the government is serious about rebalancing our economy this infrastructure investment in the north is critical,” Lloyd concluded.

West Yorkshire’s concerns have been heard

Leeds City Council described the announcement of phase 2 as “very welcome news”, particularly the confirmation of the remodelling of Leeds station as a single integrated transport hub, which would give it even greater importance as a piece of national infrastructure.

Leeds station is already one of the busiest stations in the north of England, currently used by 100,000 passengers a day. The number of passengers is expected to double over the next 30 years eventually reaching a level similar to that of Gatwick Airport.

The redevelopment of the station is expected to provide approximately 13,000 new jobs to the region and play a large role in the regeneration of the city’s South Bank, effectively doubling the size of Leeds City Centre. This follows in the footsteps of recent transport developments made by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) such as two new rail stations and Leeds station’s award-winning new southern entrance.

Cllr Keith Wakefield, chair of the WYCA Transport Committee, said: “HS2 will be the largest single investment in transport ever in north of England and it will deliver a transformational change to growth and jobs in West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region economy.

 “We will be continuing to impress on HS2 Ltd the importance of work with communities along the route on the local implications, and we will also be calling for construction of HS2’s Yorkshire leg to start, in Yorkshire, as soon as possible.”

The original proposals for HS2’s stop in Leeds had caused concerns locally especially in terms of the impact services would have on areas surrounding the city centre, such as Woodlesford. Leeds City Council proposed alternative solutions which now appear to have been followed, with the approach to Woodlesford revised and the confirmation of the integrated Leeds station.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Cllr Judith Blake said: “We know local people and businesses directly impacted by the line of route will be concerned but we are pleased that our comments to Sir David Higgins and HS2 Ltd have resulted in a new plan for Woodlesford and for Leeds Station.

“We will continue to call for the impact on those on the route to be minimised as much as possible, and also for work on our part of HS2 to be carried out earlier so our region can start to benefit sooner than planned.”

Sheffield route not set yet

There will now be a public consultation on moving the alignment of the eastern leg of the Phase 2 route from Derbyshire to West Yorkshire in order to serve the Sheffield City Region, as Sir David Higgins recommended in his report, ‘Sheffield and South Yorkshire’, in June this year.

The government will look to include local residents, businesses and organisations in the consultation before a final decision is made next year.

Sir Steve Houghton, chair of Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, explained that local leaders recognised the importance of HS2 and would be encouraged to take part in the consultation on the new route.

However, he noted concerns about the potential impact of the change in route on local residents, such as families living in the new Shimmer estate in Mexborough who have already been told that “some or all of their land” may need to be bulldozed.

“Local leaders share concerns over the impact that the new route will have on local residents and we are currently working together on a study to examine options for a realigned route which is less disruptive to our local communities,” said Sir Stephen.

“We will also be asking government to give greater certainty that both the inclusion of Parkway station and the building of the northern connection to Leeds will be included as part of their plans.”

(Image c. HS2 Ltd)

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