Mayors unveil plans for new Staffordshire to Manchester railway line

The mayors of the West Midlands and Greater Manchester have revealed the preferred option to improve connectivity between the two regions.

Andy Street and Andy Burnham say the best option is to create a new railway line from HS2 at Handsacre, Lichfield to Manchester Airport after the pair commissioned work with a private sector consortium.

Former HS2 boss Sir David Higgins has worked alongside the group consisting of Arup, Arcadis, EY, Skanska, Dragados, Addleshaw Goddard and Mace, which have assessed three options to alleviate a congested West Coast Mainline and boost connectivity.

The preferred option could be based on the latest leg of the TGV high-speed railway from Bordeaux to Tours, where almost half of the €7.8bn cost of the line was provided through private finance. It will be recouped through a 50-year concession contract.

Other options considered included:
• Enhance the existing West Coast Main Line to “improve some of the most constrained parts”
• Build major bypasses to West Coast Mainline constraints, particularly between Crewe and Stockport as well as make upgrades to the existing line

Burnham said: “It’s becoming drastically clear that the existing West Coast Mainline and the congested M6 will not be sufficient to cope with increasing passenger and freight volumes. Without an alternative, they could very soon become a barrier to growth in the North and the West Midlands.”

A draft plan has been sent to both the Department for Transport and Labour’s transport team, with detailed proposals set to be presented this summer.

Both mayors revealed initial plans last month during a press event at Arup’s office in Birmingham. They said that talks with the Transport Secretary Mark Harper were “constructive”.