Those of us who were expecting Manchester’s high speed rail connection to be brought forward will surely be disappointed by today’s pronouncement by Sir David Higgin’s.

The man who delivered the Olympics and who formerly ran Network Rail has announced that High Speed Two will arrive in Crewe in 2027, six years earlier and forty three miles further north than planned with the remaining links to Manchester and Leeds completed as early as 2030, bringing the completion date for the whole project forward by three years.

The North’s cities were buoyed by yesterday’s comments by the business secretary Vincent Cable who, in an interview with the Observer, said that there was a “compelling case” to speed up the extension of the HS2 rail link northwards and that this would “ensure the economic benefits can be shared sooner by everyone around the country”.

There had been much speculation that the construction of the line may begin simultaneously from Manchester and London. Many from the business community in this part of the world commenting that if the economic benefits of connectivity are so great, then surely it would make more sense to begin the project from its Northern end.

According to Sir David, the necessary legislation to amend the timetable could be easily factored into the current hybrid bill. However critics are pointing out that bringing forward work will not be as simple as it sounds and already the complications of the Hybrid one bill have made it unlikely to be passed in this Parliament.

Speed, not the journey times, but the haste of getting on with the job, is essential says Sir David. The quicker the project begins, the easier it will be to control costs and the sooner the North is connected, the sooner its economic benefits will accrue.

However the report will only fuel the debate here in Manchester further.Whilst our local political leaders have firmly supported the plan, the ordinary person is less convinced.An opinion poll at the weekend again in the Observer found that we are more concerned with capacity and connectivity across the North rather than being joined to the Midlands and the South. Twice as many people wanted better links between Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds than supported a better link to London and Birmingham.


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