We’ve been somewhat ambivalent to High Speed 2 here at Manchester Transport blog. Construction on the northern sections to Manchester and Leeds isn’t planned until the latter half of the 2020’s, so it could be 2033 before the project is complete – assuming political support is still forthcoming. At least now we have something more concrete to look at, as on Monday the government released details of its initial preferred route options. Whilst not yet set in stone, and still a decade away from the first sod being turned, what do the plans have in store for Manchester?
The broad plan is to run from the Birmingham Airport interchange station on the already-announced phase 1 line from London, to form a Y-shaped network with lines diverging towards Manchester and Leeds. The Manchester branch will run roughly parallel to the existing West Coast Main Line as far as Crewe, where it will tunnel under the existing station. A junction here would allow through services onto the existing network, most notably towards Liverpool, Runcorn and Warrington. HS2 will head north to a junction to the west of Knutsford. The branch to Manchester will call at a station at Manchester Airport, then run in a bored-tunnel under the southern suburbs to emerge at Ardwick and into a new terminal station built on the north-east side of Manchester Piccadilly. Meanwhile, another branch will cross the Manchester Ship Canal and rejoin the West Coast Main Line south of Wigan, for services towards Scotland. You can take a closer look at the full route on the GOV.UK website.
Let’s have a look at some of the highlights from the engineering report, a fascinating document but as one might expect, a lengthy tome!
The new terminus at Piccadilly will be located next to the existing trainshed where the multi-storey car park is currently located. It will feature four platforms at 440 metres long, which is longer than the current longest platforms at the existing station. There will be a concourse at ground level with access to the platforms above, with a new taxi rank and bus drop-off point on Sheffield Street. Access to and from the existing station concourse looks to be down a new set of stairs next to Boots at the main entrance.
The twin-bore tunnel from Adrwick to the airport will be around 7.5 miles long, and allow speeds of up to 140 mph. Its route will take it underneath Longsight and Fallowfield, from where it will roughly follow the route of Wilmslow Road and Palatine Road as far as Northenden, to emerge near the airport at a new station at Davenport Green. Residents may not be initially happy to hear this news*, but apart from the odd high-profile mishap during construction, the Channel Tunnel rail link tunnels under North London seem to operate happily enough. The tunnel under South Manchester will be about 30 metres below the surface.
* Full disclosure: I live next door to the existing airport line, so am little relieved that this corridor was not the preferred option!
The airport station would be located some distance away from the main terminal buildings, in fact on the other side of the M56, so we would envisage some form of link between the two. Metrolink would seem the most likely option, possibly a resurrection of the “western loop” that would continue to the Wythenshawe Hospital stop, but an automated system between terminals could be a possibility such as can be found at other major airports. Whatever happens, it looks like the Marriott Hotel in Halebarns would have to be demolished to make way for HS2.
The connection to Wigan via Warburton will allow speeds of up to around 185-220 mph, with a high-level viaduct over the Manchester Ship Canal between Cadishead and Hollins Green, needing a similar clearance for ships as at the M6 Thelwall Viaduct and M60 Barton Bridge – so about 30 metres above the canal. Whilst skirting around the village of Culcheth (doing away with an industrial estate and a linear park in the process) HS2 will follow the route of the disused Wigan Junction Railway from Glazebrook to Lowton, rejoining the West Coast Main Line near Golborne.
Other options for the route into central Manchester looked at but rejected included: a route to the east of Knutsford near the end of the second runway at Mobberley; a route from Warburton past Partington and Carrington as far as Stretford, with a tunnel from there under Chorlton-cum-Hardy and Fallowfield to the proposed portal at Ardwick; and a tunneled route parallel to the M602 as far as a new station in the Salford area.
Perhaps the most dejected community along the route is that of Hoo Green, just over the border near Knutsford in Cheshire. The few houses situated there already have the M6 a couple of miles to the south, the M56 a couple of miles to the north. Chancellor George Osborne (also the local constituency MP) has already given the green light for a new dual carriageway between these two motorways to replace the substandard A556, and now there’s HS2 to come as well!