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Could we be on track for a high-speed Liverpool rail link?

A new high-speed rail line could link Liverpool and Manchester as early as May
Liverpool-Manchester rail line

Despite the enduring rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester, there is a grudging respect between the cities. 

While the historic animosity may have fueled spirited banter and friendly competition, the reality of sluggish journeys has become an inconvenience that both cities could do without.

But that could be about to change.

With the cancellation of HS2 casting a long shadow over British train travel last year, out of its ashes comes the possibility of a high-speed Liverpool-Manchester rail line.

We’ve had false dawns before, but it looks like we could even be getting an underground train station at Manchester Piccadilly thrown into the bargain.

A new high-speed Liverpool-Manchester trainline?

Andy Burnham Liverpool-Manchester rail line
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham

The creation of a new high-speed rail station in Liverpool could make zipping between our fair cities an absolute breeze. 

Currently, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotherham, who both face the polls next week, have pledged to create a new public/private Liverpool-Manchester railway board. 

They hope that this could further increase rail capacity between the two city regions. 

Both candidates have now received confirmation from the government that they can put plans up for consideration to improve travel between the two cities following HS2’s cancellation last year

If, and maybe it’s not that big an if, both win their respective elections next week, they are hoping that they can get the project going to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the world’s first passenger railway in 2029. 

Following the capitulation of Rishi Sunak, who scrapped the high-speed project last year, the two Mayors were asked to help the government by advising on what could improve connectivity in the north. 

The Northern Powerhouse rail project

HS2 has been ‘replaced’ by the Northern Powerhouse rail project but there has been some confusion about what this will entail. 

Last October, former prime minister Liz Truss promised a new 200km fully electrified line from Liverpool to Hull with a stop in Bradford, but two weeks later new chancellor Jeremy Hunt suggested that it might not go ahead as the government was desperately looking to make savings to mitigate against the sudden economic upheaval caused by her time in charge. 

But the door appears to remain ajar for new rail infrastructure projects in the north.

What did Andy Burnham say?

Tweeting today, Andy Burnham said: “The door is open to an ambitious new Liverpool-Manchester line with a modern, underground station at Piccadilly.

“If re-elected, we will move quickly to establish a new Liverpool – Manchester railway board to develop a detailed plan for the new line.

“We aim to be well on with building it by 2029 – the 200th anniversary of the world’s first inter-city railway between our two cities.”

A Manchester Piccadilly underground station?

An issue that has been raised with the government before, it looks like we might dare to dream about an underground rail station at Manchester Piccadilly again.  

Rail minister Huw Merriman has re-ignited formerly lost hopes, suggesting the current government is now willing to explore an underground through-station in Manchester and a possible parkway station outside Liverpool.

Former transport secretary Grant Shapps said no to an underground station back in 2022 but this was when HS2 was still full steam ahead.

There were concerns about cost, with an eyewatering £5bn price tag mentioned – also adding on 13 years to delivery.  

What did Huw Merriman say?

Writing to Steve Rotherham, Minister of State for Rail and HS2 Huw Merriman said: “I am committed to continuing to work with you and other local leaders toward identifying the best solutions for this corridor.

“I can confirm that we are willing to look at alternatives to using the West Coast Main Line into Liverpool and station options as part of the next phase of work once the high-level strategy for this corridor is confirmed.

“It means the creation of a new high-speed railway station in Liverpool has moved a step closer.”

Celebrating the news, Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotherham wrote: “For too long, passengers across the north have been forced to put up with a second-class rail service.

“Rather than accepting cheap and nasty solutions, I’ve fought our area’s corner and forced the government back to the drawing board.

“Our two regions were railway pioneers and we’ve already shown in the Liverpool city region how publicly-run transport delivers a much better service for passengers and taxpayers alike.

“We’ll continue that proud tradition by working to establish a new publicly operated Liverpool-Manchester link, putting Labour values at the heart of our railways.”

You can see what he had to say here

What do you think about the potential high-speed Liverpool-Manchester rail line? Let us know.

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