Cutting Manchester Airport link to HS2 grossly unacceptable, says Tony Lloyd

Manchester Airport redevelopment will be enhanced by a link to HS2.

The news that stations proposed for Phase 2 of HS2 near Manchester Airport and at Sheffield's Meadowhall could be axed to control costs on the project have been given short shrift by Manchester’s interim mayor, Tony Lloyd, who said that a failure to connect the airport to the high speed network would be “grossly unacceptable”.

Speaking to the Today programme, Lloyd said: “There would be absolute fury if these reports proved to have any foundation. Manchester Airport is the third largest airport in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe and very few other countries would waste the opportunity to link that airport to the high speed rail link that I assume is still planned to Manchester and Leeds. We do need urgent clarification and we do need to have these rumours denied. If not, there should be an early report to Parliament and I will be raising this with the transport secretary and the chancellor.”

Lloyd called the potential cutting back on stations “cheese pairing” and said this wouldn’t be taking place “if we were discussing Crossrail in London”. He said that the case for the airport link was an obvious one because within just two hours travel of the airport, one-third of the UK population lives. “It’s an important national asset and not simply for ‘those northerners somewhere up there’”, he said. “The idea that we have a piecemeal roll out of high speed rail in Britain that is concentrated on London to Birmingham is very difficult to accept for people in the north and it’s grossly unacceptable.

“We are talking about the airport for virtually the whole of the north of England in terms of its international outreach and to fail to link that onto the high speed rail system would set back the economic development of the north and it would be a very powerful signal of a failure to commit to the development that is planned for the north.

“No one in their right mind would not link to such an important piece of northern infrastructure,” Lloyd claimed.

Whitehall's top civil servant, cabinet secretary Sir Jeremey Heywood is understood to be reviewing the HS2 project to keep costs under control, with a report expected to be delivered to ministers this summer.

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This story was firmly refuted yesterday by Sir Richard Leese, leader of the city council who is also director of Manchester Airports Group, but neither Tony Lloyd nor Leese have spoken about the central fact - that the Airport station is not actually in the HS2 budget envelope, it would be added to the scheme only if "a significant local contribution" is made. This is clearly explained in the HS2 Command Paper. How you cut a budget that doesn't exist is unexplained by the Sunday Times. Now it might be that the sum required to add it to the HS2 scheme is known and has been agreed by MAG (the obvious contributor to the cost) but local taxpayers seem not to have been told what the cost to them might be. MAG is, from memory, 69% taxpayer owned. Perhaps someone might put these questions to HS2 and Sir Richard.