Manchester City Council has thrown its weight behind HS2, after a report from the project’s chairman recommended a cost-cutting measure through Sheffield city centre.
David Higgins, the HS2 Ltd chairman, published the report stating the rail-line should use the existing Sheffield Midland station, thereby saving an estimated £1billion of the project’s budget.
Leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese welcomed the report, saying it meant phase two of HS2, which includes a line to Manchester, would go ahead.
Sir Richard said: “Make no mistake, HS2 is vital to the future economic well-being of Greater Manchester and the North of England if we are to unlock the opportunities that will allow our region to compete more effectively on the world stage”.
He also added that the EU referendum result meant that it was ‘more vital than ever’ that HS2 was completed in an effort to ‘deliver growth’.
At the end of June the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review highlighted logistics as a key enabling factor in closing the economic gap between the north and south.
Sir Richard added that transport improvements were key to closing this gap, saying: “The recommendation of a Sheffield city centre location for HS2 is a welcome one which fits in with our wider vision of improved connections between our great northern cities”.
The project faces continuing criticism, including from pressure groups like StopHS2, and the question remains whether the money earmarked should be spent improving existing transport infrastructure.
Last month, the National Audit Office said that the £56billion HS2 project was facing an ‘unrealistic timetable’ and major cost pressures.
HS2 Ltd responded to the report by conceding that challenges remained, but stated that the project was on track to ‘deliver its strategic scope and to do so on budget’.