Option includes building new line for trains to run at lower speeds

The mayors of the West Midlands and Greater Manchester have outlined three alternatives to the cancelled northern leg of HS2.

The proposals under consideration by Andy Street and Andy Burnham include building a new dedicated line, similar to the one planned for HS2, which would run at lower speeds to reduce costs.

The other two options are to upgrade the West Coast main line or add new sections on the WCML route.


West Midlands mayor Andy Street (left) says further details of the HS2 alternative from Birmingham to Manchester will be unveiled in the summer

Much of the West Coast main line has a maximum speed of 125mph, while the plan is for HS2 to have a top speed of 224mph, and up to 250mph on curves in the route.

Street said: “We do believe there is real benefit in one of those three or some blend between them.”

Burnham said that the pair “won’t accept a do-nothing scenario” as that would be “damaging to economic growth in the regions” and “leave the UK with quite a serious transport headache for the rest of this century”.

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The pair met transport secretary Mark Harper last week, who has said he will keep “an open mind” on their proposals which are due to be outlined in detail this summer.

The mayors are working with a private sector consortium, including Arup, Mace and Arcadis, led by former chair of HS2, Sir David Higgins, to put forward alternatives.

Yesterday, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee said that running HS2 trains just from Birmingham to west London will be “very poor value for money” and warned they have serious doubts about whether the originally planned station at Euston can attract enough private finance to get it back up and running.

The leg to Manchester was scrapped last autumn by prime minister Rishi Sunak, months after the government mothballed the station scheme at Euston and decided to end it at Old Oak Common – forcing passengers to complete their journeys into the middle of the capital by alternative methods and leading National Infrastructure Commission chair John Armitt to liken it to a “shuttle service”.