THE routes of high-speed rail links to cities in the north of England have been unveiled, in a move David Cameron said would boost Britain’s stagnant economy.
Extending the already-planned London to Birmingham HS2 line as far as Manchester and Leeds is designed to cut journey times, ease overcrowding and boost regional business.
Officials say the £32.7 billion project will create at least 100,000 jobs.
But the Government is braced for a fresh backlash from rural communities through which the line will pass and some controversy over the chosen location of stations.
The Department for Transport said there would be five stops on the 211-mile Y-shaped extension northwards from Birmingham – scheduled to be completed in 2032, six years after the first phase:
Manchester – alongside the existing Piccadilly station; Manchester Airport – interchange by the M56 between Warburton Green and Davenport Green; East Midlands – at Toton, between Nottingham and Derby and one mile from the M1; Sheffield – at Meadowhall shopping centre; Leeds – at New Lane in the South bank area connected to the main station by walkway.
There will also be a “dedicated link” alongside the high-speed line at Crewe to link up with standard trains – reducing journey times to Liverpool and Glasgow.
But a proposed spur to Heathrow has been put on hold pending the results of Sir Howard Davies’ review of future airport capacity – which is not due to give a final report until the summer of 2015.
Instead passengers heading to the world’s busiest airport will have to change onto the new London east-west Crossrail service for an 11-minute transfer to terminals.
The Department for Transport said the journey from Manchester to Birmingham would be reduced to 41 minutes and from Manchester to London to 1 hour 8 minutes – almost half the present times.