HS2 in Manchester: 'A waste of money' or 'worthwhile'?

By Stewart Whittingham & Emma Stanley
BBC News

image copyrightBennetts Associates
image captionManchester's plans for HS2, revealed in 2018, include a major upgrade of Piccadilly station

The HS2 rail project, which will cut travel times from Manchester to London, could be "a waste of money", commuters in the northern city have said.

The government is set to approve the project's two stages, though the second one linking Manchester and Birmingham will be reviewed.

Manchester passengers said they worried about its environmental costs and the lack of a solution to existing issues.

However, the city's council leader said it was "very, very good news".

Sir Richard Leese added that the UK had "vastly under-invested in infrastructure for probably half a century and I think we need to adjust our cash registers to recognise we need this investment".

image captionPaul Fletcher said money should be spent improving the existing network

At the city's Piccadilly railway station, insurance broker Paul Fletcher said the government "would be far better spending [the money set aside for it] on improving the lines we've already got".

"What a waste of money," he said.

The 49-year-old, who lives in Hyde, Greater Manchester, said he was also concerned about the potential impact on the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail project, which would improve links from between the West and East coasts.

"Who knows what will happen when they review the line to Manchester and Leeds?" he said.

"It seems the North is again getting a raw deal."

image captionRon Baldwin said the government "should be putting money into normal trains"

Retired engineer Ron Baldwin was in agreement.

The 75-year-old had just travelled for nearly two hours from his home in Brough, Cumbria and said that "yet again, the North seems to be taking a back seat".

"I am very sceptical that this will ever happen - the costs just seem to be endless.

"They should be putting money into normal trains- I doubt we'll ever see the benefit where I live."

image captionAnne Butterworth was worried about the environmental impact

Administrator Anne Butterworth, 56, was also concerned about local services.

"I regularly travel on smaller commuter trains; that's where the money needs going, not HS2," she said.

"However, what I really worry about is the environmental impact. Wildlife will suffer because of this.

"They will be knocking down ancient forest to build this and damaging wetlands. I thought we were supposed to be preserving them for the future generation, not harming them."

image caption"They would be better off spending the money on existing infrastructure," Jade Fuller said

Southampton-based project manager Jade Fuller, who regularly travels between London and Manchester for work, said she was also concerned about the environmental and financial costs for what could be minimal gain.

"It seems an awful lot of money to spend just to save 20 minutes to get to London," the 35-year-old said.

"They would be better off spending the money on existing infrastructure - that's what's really needed."

However, Manchester lawyer Cameron Iqbal, 35, tentatively welcomed the announcement.

"In theory, I think it's a worthwhile project [as] investing in our trains is a good idea, but I do also think they should put more money into our existing trains," he said.

"The commuter trains need improving too."

image captionSir Richard said the project must be "properly integrated" with Northern Powerhouse Rail

Sir Richard told BBC Radio Manchester it was "about time" HS2 got the go-ahead.

"Virtually anywhere else in Europe would have had it built by now," he said.

"It's capacity we will need for the rest of this century and beyond, and the fact it's going to go ahead is very, very good news for Manchester and indeed the whole of the North.

"All of our commuter lines are full and there's no room for freight on the existing network, so taking the long-distance trains off the existing network and putting them on their own network means we will have more and more reliable services between Manchester, Birmingham and London and across to Liverpool, Bradford and Leeds."

However, he added that the project needed to be "properly integrated" with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

"As a country, we've vastly under-invested in infrastructure for probably half a century and I think we need to adjust our cash registers to recognise we need this investment."

In a statement, Connecting Britain said the North "needs new rail lines that go north-south and west-east".

The coalition of northern business and political leaders, which includes Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, said London "isn't being forced to choose, it's getting Crossrail and HS2".

"We need HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered in full [and] we will not accept a gold-plated high-speed line between London and Birmingham, then once again the North getting the scraps."

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