The creation of a new underground HS2 through station at Manchester Piccadilly would avoid the need to sever trams to Tameside, one of the original masterminds of the proposal has confirmed.
Local ministers recently sounded their dismay at the discovery that plans for rejuvenating Manchester Piccadilly to accommodate HS2 services would cut the critical transport link to the east of the city for two years.
This could be avoided if the heavily-supported proposal to create an underground through station was taken forward.
The plan created by architects Weston Williamson + Partners and engineering consultants Expedition Engineering proposes combining HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail’s Manchester Piccadilly stations into a single integrated through station below ground, rather than an above-ground terminus.
Former Expedition director Alistair Lenczner points out that the underground Piccadilly plan includes a provision for how to modify the affected Ashton-under-Lyne tram line.
Currently the Ashton-under-Lyne line stops at Piccadilly Metrolink station, which is underneath the main train station concourse and platforms. Under the alternative Piccadilly station scheme, the tram line would be re-routed to a brand new street-level station outside of the station’s main entrance.
This means that tracks between the Piccadilly Gardens and Piccadilly Metrolink stops would be rerouted to come down Piccadilly Street rather than Aytoun Street, as it does currently. Trams would then stop at the new Station Square stop on the north side of the train station, before continuing eastwards to Ashton-under-Lyne on the same tracks it currently uses.
While this is certainly a lot of work, Lenczner says that the track re-routing and the creation of the new Station Square stop would be completed before work on the underground HS2 station would begin, so trams could continue to use the current line up until the new alignment is ready. This would allow a smooth transition of services from the old track alignment to the new one with minimal disruption to tram services.
Lenczner stressed that this is just one more benefit of creating Weston Williamson’s underground through station proposal as compared to the version that is currently planned.
The current plan has Piccadilly as a terminus, meaning trains have to reverse out if they are to continue north, creating a bottleneck. The main advantage of a through station is that it would allow services to continue on from Manchester and go further north without reversing.
This would make it a more flexible station for both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail services, allowing them more potential for growth to places like Bradford, Leeds, York and beyond. It would also serve us a valuable interchange point between these lines.
It is also economically beneficial, as combining the HS2 and NPR stations would save on construction costs while it leaves the existing arches space beneath the current station available for commercial use. There is also the potential for more commercial space above the new high speed station.
Overall, the proposal would create a new intermodal interchange for Manchester, establishing a new business district within the city centre.
In the Integrated Rail Plan, the government did not take this plan for an underground high speed station forward, opting instead to stick with the plan for a “turnback” terminus station.
However, the possibility of an underground through station is not yet dead. With the HS2 Phase 2b bill having recently been introduced to Parliament at the end of January, Weston Williamson partner Rob Naybour toldNCEthere is now potential for a serious discussion about it.
The underground Piccadilly has also had vocal public support from Manchester City Council, who urged the government to reconsider the “compelling case”, and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who said it could unlock the North’s economic potential.