Andy Street and Andy Burnham to sit down with transport secretary Mark Harper to discuss proposals
West Midlands mayor Andy Street and his counterpart in Greater Manchester Andy Burnham are due to meet the transport secretary next week to discuss plans for a replacement for the cancelled HS2 leg between Birmingham and Manchester.
The pair were prominent critics of last autumn’s decision by prime minister Rishi Sunak to pull the scheme, with Street at one point reportedly set to quit the Conservative party in protest.
Street was also responsible for putting together a last-ditch bid to save the line which featured several private sector companies including Siemens and Arup. The group proposed alternative solutions to build the route between Crewe and Manchester including bringing in private finance and commercialising high=speed rail stations.
“It is quite unusual for private companies to come forward and say the prime minister is getting this wrong and to put their heads above the parapet,” Street said at the time.
Sunak pulled the plug a few days later and, since then, Street and Burnham have been working on a plan to get an alternative off the ground.
Speaking at an event yesterday to mark the start of groundworks at the HS2 Curzon Street station in Birmingham, Street told Building that he and Burnham would be meeting Mark Harper next week.
“We are not trying to revive HS2 – that won’t happen. [But] the prime minister has said he wants proposals for improved connectivity. It might be upgrades to the West Coast Line, or it might be a new dedicated line.” Detailed proposals would be revealed over the summer, he added.
Street said Curzon Street, which is being built by a Mace/Dragados joint venture, “brings high-speed rail right to the centre of the city, London and to the north we hope in time”.
He added that a “new dedicated line” would connect where HS2 ends in Handsacre, north of Birmingham, with the start of Northern Powerhouse Rail in Stockport.
The government has already spent £2.3bn on the second phase of HS2 but ministers believe cancellation will save the Treasury £34bn in planned expenditure.
Street told Building the mayors’ alternative plan “certainly won’t cost the amount that HS2 north was going to cost the exchequer” and added: “[I’m] very confident that, in time, one of the options will happen. There will, in time, be a connection between the two [cities].”
He said the pair were continuing to meet with the private sector to discuss building the link between Birmingham and Manchester. “We are not experts, we need to talk with private sector experts about the options.”
Others to pledge their support for Street’s attempt to save phase 2 of HS2 last autumn included Mace and Arcadis.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The government is supportive of work to improve rail connectivity between Birmingham and Manchester.”