Mayors’ group to study Birm-Manc rail private finance options

High-speed rail may be off the cards as mayors set a group of private sector companies the task of improving links between Manchester and Birmingham

West Midlands mayor Andy Street and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and his West Midlands counterpart Andy Street have put together a group of private sector teams to come up with potential solutions to establishing a new rail link between Manchester and Birmingham.

“With HS2 Phase One & NPR [Northern Powerhouse Rail] going ahead, we’ve been left with a section in the middle between the WM [West Midlands] & GM [Greater Manchester] that needs addressing,” said Street.

He added that the private sector group - which is chaired by former HS2 chair, Sir David Higgins and includes firms such as Arup, EY, Skanska and Mace - will look at a number of options, from upgrades to the existing lines, to a completely new line, and will consider the “role of private finance”.

However, providing an update on the plans earlier this week, the mayors suggested that any option would cost “considerably less” than the original HS2 plans - and were unlikely to be focused on providing high-speed rail. Instead, a more conventional rail line is being envisaged.