Cllr Bev Craig said report comparing station options failed to consider wider economic benefit

The leader of Manchester City Council has told the government to take a “more strategic view” of the case for an underground station at HS2’s Manchester terminus.

Her comments follow a 261-page report published by HS2 Ltd, which sets out the financial and practical case in favour of a surface station.

The bill enabling the creation of the Crewe to Manchester leg of High Speed Rail, which proposes a six-platform above-ground station besides the existing Manchester Piccadilly station, last week passed its second reading in the House of Commons.


The planned above-ground station would be built alongside the existing Manchester Piccadilly station

It will now go to committee stage, where Manchester City Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will petition for a underground station, which they claim would free up almost 500,000 sq m of prime development land in the city centre.

The Department for Transport has repeatedly said that an underground station would be too expensive, claiming it would cost an additional £5bn.

The basis for that figure was revealed earlier this week with the publication of a report from HS2, which compared the case for a surface-level station with different underground designs, concluding that the former was preferable on the grounds of cost, construction safety and speed of delivery.

The report considered three options for an underground station at Piccadilly – shallow box cut and cover, deep box cut and cover, or a combination of deep box and mined construction.

>>> Weston Williamson unveils plan to ‘save Manchester’ by burying HS2 station

According to the report, all of the underground options would require greater volumes of materials delivered to and from the site, resulting in at least 13,500 additional HGV journeys into and out of the city – assuming that 90% of excavated material could be removed by rail.

The authors estimated that the best performing of the underground station designs would cost £11.4bn – compared with the projected £7bn surface station – and would be completed at least seven years later than the current 2036 delivery date.

The assessment was focused on the costs of building the station itself, stating: “HS2 Ltd does not believe it is best placed to carry out any further work on wider benefits or commercial development outside of the construction boundary”.

Weston Williamson - Manchester Picadilly HS2 - CGI Station Cross Section

Source: Weston Williamson & Partners

Weston Williamson’s proposal for an underground station at Manchester Piccadilly

But Bev Craig, leader of the city council, said the analysis failed to factor in the broader economic impact of an underground station, which she claimed would deliver an additional £333m every year to the local area.

“Our case remains that it’s essential to look at the station’s value for money over its lifetime,” she said. “We would encourage HS2 Ltd and the Government to take a longer term, more strategic view.”

She added that while the council was still looking at the details of the latest HS2 report, it was “fair to say” that while the company had shared their estimated costs for an underground station, they had not shared the basis for how this figure was arrived at.

“We remain convinced that an optimised design could deliver an underground station for considerably less,” she added.

Meanwhile, HS2 has handed the Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture an extra £78m for the Euston tunnels project in north London.

It is for agreed changes to the scope of work as part of the contract worth £1.2bn.