Sky view of MediaCityUK, in the former Industrail Salford Quays in Greater Manchester

HS2 acts on feedback over Manchester route design

Salford Quays in the centre of Greater Manchester, where the RailFreight Summit UK will be held in early AprilImage: Marketing Manchster

HS2 Limited, the company formed to build Britain’s high speed railway line, is engaging local communities in Manchester to discuss proposed changes to its construction designs. They say the purpose is to reduce future flood impacts in the leafy suburb of West Didsbury. Construction is already underway on the core route from London to Birmingham, with extension to Manchester scheduled to follow on in a few years – or possibly a decade or two – from now.

The line north from Birmingham to Manchester is still in some jeopardy, pending UK government review, but the HS2 company is pressing ahead with planning to bring high speed rail to Manchester. Building the line through the heavily populated Greater Manchester area is the subject of heated debate in the city, and any announcement is met with intense speculation. Doubtless this week’s activity will be similarly observed.

Climate change informs design

Planning for HS2 in Manchester is already well underway. The rail freight benefits are not as clear cut as phase one, which will relieve the West Coast Main Line, but any development in the North West would be a welcome boost to capacity overall.  To inform next steps in the Parliamentary process, HS2 say they have worked closely with the UK government’s Environment Agency to understand the widespread flooding impacts in West Didsbury, with a specific focus on the aftermath of the trio of winter storms last year: Storm Christoph, Storm Eunice and Storm Franklin.

A visualisation of an HS2 train
Artists impression of an HS2 train – en route to Manchster perhaps

Following a detailed assessment of the proposed construction works for HS2, revised flood modelling works have been undertaken. The company is proposing to relocate the Palatine Road vent shaft in the south of the city. This shaft is required to service the Manchester tunnel, which will allow the line to reach the city centre terminus, proposed to be adjacent to the existing Piccadilly station, on the site of the redundant Mayfield terminus.

Reduce construction work impact

“Moving the vent shaft to a new location, outside of the Didsbury Flood Storage Basin, reduces flooding impacts on neighbouring properties and removes impacts to Withington Golf Club”, say HS2 in a communique to Manchester residents. They propose moving it to a new location, within the site of the Hollies Convent School. Pupils need not worry about any disruption to their classes. The last students graduated in the 1990s and the school has been closed for nearly 30 years.

View inside an HS2 tunnel
A vast tunnel, like this one under the Chilterns will access Manchester from the south (Image HS2 Ltd)

“We are committed to ensuring that our plans for Britain’s new high speed railway minimise disruption for local communities during both the construction and operational phases”, said Stephen Smith, the Head of Consultation and Engagement for HS2’s Phase 2b programme – the part of the plan that covers extension from Birmingham to Manchester Airport and city centre. “It’s vital that we act on new information, and we believe this is a positive step to reduce our construction work’s impact on flood risk in the surrounding area. We have already written to residents advising them of the proposals and would encourage them to attend our local community event if they have any questions.”

Public events this week and next

The change reflects the ongoing design and engagement work that HS2 Limited is undertaking during the hybrid Bill process – the parliamentary debate and vote on the next section of the line. The High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill was submitted to parliament in January last year. It seeks the legislative powers to build and operate the northern extension. The Crewe – Manchester extension is forecast to open between 2035 and 2041.

The proposal will be formally submitted to Parliament later this year and is subject to its approval. Any concerns raised by those directly affected will be considered by Parliament ahead of the approval process.
HS2 say communities are invited to attend face to face and online webinar events to question the proposals. These are scheduled to take place this week and next, both in person and online.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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