Two of England’s mayors have outlined their proposals to revive rail within the Midlands and North post-HS2, insisting they “won’t accept a do-nothing scenario”.
Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, and his West Midlands counterpart, Andy Street, teamed up after the federal government axed the northern leg of the excessive pace rail challenge final yr, and are looking for an alternative choice to enhance providers between the cities with the assistance of the personal sector.
Now the pair have supplied up three choices – from smaller upgrades via to an entire new line – they consider would offer “real benefits” to each their areas.
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Briefing journalists at an occasion in Birmingham, Mr Burnham mentioned failing to extend capability within the North West “would be damaging to economic growth in the regions and would mean the West Midlands and Greater Manchester would be set back”.
He additionally mentioned it might go away the UK “with quite a serious transport headache for the rest of this century”, with each the West Coast Main Line and the M6 already “at capacity”.
The mayor added: “Having been promised Northern Powerhouse Rail with HS2 at its heart… we won’t accept a do-nothing scenario.”
Mr Street outlined the options on the desk following the work they carried out with a non-public sector consortium – together with engineers, building corporations and finance consultants, led by former HS2 boss Sir David Higgins.
The proposals are to both:
• Enhance the prevailing West Coast Main Line to “improve some of the most constrained parts” – although Mr Street warned it was the “minimal capital” choice providing “minimum advantage”;
• Build main bypasses to the road on the southern finish, in addition to between Crewe and Stockport, alongside upgrades to the prevailing line;
• Construct a totally new and segregated line, however not constructed to the specification of the high-speed line within the south.
They couldn’t decide to Sky News that there can be no want for public funding, however insisted it was “the less complicated part of the network” as a consequence of no want for tunnelling, and the transport advantages can be “huge”.
Mr Burnham additionally denied the concepts weren’t “HS2 by the back door”, telling reporters that they had “reluctantly” accepted the choice to scrap the second leg of the excessive pace challenge.
But Mr Street added: “We do believe there is a real benefit in one of those three or some blend between them,” added Mr Street.
Both mayors additionally praised the strategy of Transport Secretary Mark Harper to their work, saying they held a “constructive” assembly with him final week and deliberate additional talks in March.
The minister had beforehand prompt he was “open-minded” to any proposals, although he remained “somewhat sceptical” about whether or not HS2 may very well be accomplished with out public funding.
Asked by Sky News about doubts in Westminster over their challenge, Mr Burnham mentioned there have been schemes “around the world” that had been largely privately funded, such because the enlargement of the TGV in France, exhibiting it could work.
“Those sceptical MPs really should look up some of what’s been done in other parts of the world where infrastructure have been delivered successfully in a less costly way than the original HS2 [line] and where the private sector has played a considerable role in taking the risk off the public sector,” he mentioned.
“This is not unrealistic or pie in the sky. There are plenty of examples.”
West Midlands mayor Andy Street additionally praised the strategy of Mr Harper, telling Sky News: “It would have been very easy for the government to double down on the difficult decision they took at the Conservative Party conference.
“They haven’t executed that.”
He adds: “The transport secretary has mentioned it. He says he’s ‘open-minded’ and described the assembly final week as ‘constructive’, so they’re undoubtedly keen to look at the outputs of this.”
But despite all the work with the private sector, would the final plan still need taxpayer cash?
“Not essentially,” said Mr Burnham. “But that is what [our] work will likely be taking a look at.”