Privately-funded alternatives to scrapped HS2 section discussed

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Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Transport Secretary Mark Harper have had a “constructive” discussion about privately-funded alternatives to a scrapped section of HS2.

Jacob King/PA Wire

Mr Burnham told MPs that there had been a “constructive” discussion about the future of the scrapped section of HS2, as he stressed doing nothing would create “a major transport headache”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelled the plan to extend HS2 between the West Midlands and Manchester in October 2023 amid spiralling costs.

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Mr Burnham and West Midlands mayor Andy Street have commissioned a group of private sector organisations to consider how to finance major rail improvements between Handsacre Junction, Staffordshire – where HS2 will end – and High Leigh, Cheshire, which is on the planned route for Northern Powerhouse Rail between Manchester and Liverpool.

The coalition is chaired by Sir David Higgins, a former chairman of HS2 Ltd, and includes businesses such as Arup, EY, Arcadis and Mace.

Mr Burnham told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “We’ve had a constructive discussion with the Secretary of State this morning about the work that we’re doing.

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“It’s good that the Government is at least listening to what we’re saying.

“Into February and then March I think the outputs of the work the group is doing will become more known.”

He continued: “If we do nothing, we will have a major transport headache.

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“You could argue we’ve got it now anyway, but as 2030 and 2040 come around, there is just no way on God’s earth that the M6 and the West Coast mainline are capable of servicing the growth that we’re seeing in Greater Manchester and in the West Midlands.

“There has to be another option for rail connectivity between the two cities.

“We’re just looking at those possibilities, looking at a modest upgrade to the West Coast mainline or something more substantial, and how private finance might play a role in that.”

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