Andy Burnham has said he has not ‘given up’ fighting for new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly station. The Greater Manchester mayor said platforms 15 and 16 – which were promised around a decade ago – should not be taken off the table despite the plans to build them being pulled earlier this year.The new platforms were supposed to ease congestion on the north of England’s railways by allowing more trains to run through the Castlefield corridor in Manchester city centre. But the plans were withdrawn in May when Network Rail described them as ‘hugely expensive’ and ‘incredibly disruptive’.
Transport for the North (TfN) – a body set up to make the case for investment in regional infrastructure – has now revised its formal recommendations to the government, removing any reference to the new platforms at Piccadilly. Last week, former TfN boss Jim Bamford spoke out against the move, telling Northern leaders that they ‘shouldn’t give up on pressing the government’.But Mr Burnham told TfN’s board today (September 27) the plans for two new platforms at Piccadilly should not be taken off the table. It comes after TfN’s Rail North Committee, which the Labour mayor chairs, endorsed the new statutory advice despite concerns it does not mention platforms 15 and 16.Mr Burnham shared the concerns with the board and said the new platforms should still be on the table as no alternative has been put forward. He added: “We are in no way saying that we’ve given up on platforms 15 and 16.”TfN has said its revised statutory advice focuses on outcomes such as more capacity, better performance and reliability, rather than specific outputs. The TfN board has also called for major schemes such as HS2 to be completed.
It follows weeks of speculation over the future of the high-speed rail project which ministers are reportedly considering scaling back. According to reports, the northern leg of HS2 could be scrapped due to concerns over rising costs.Mr Burnham said: “It’s 10 years since George Osborne came to Manchester and made his famous Northern Powerhouse Speech which promised HS2, HS3, Trans-Pennine route upgrades, platforms 15 and 16 at Manchester Piccadilly. All of that was promised, but how much of that has been delivered?“This is what’s at stake here. We can’t anymore live in a country where big promises like that are made and then people walk away from them.“If they’re made then they should be delivered and the North of England in my view deserves absolutely nothing less than all of them being delivered.”Last week, the Department for Transport said that Network Rail’s plans for platforms 15 and 16 were withdrawn because they ‘neither addressed present or future demand nor represented good use of taxpayers’ money’ Earlier this year, the government announced its latest plans to improve train journeys in the North with £72.3m worth of infrastructure improvements in Manchester.