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Activists stage nationwide protests against HS2's extension to Manchester

ACTIVISTS staged a nationwide day of action against HS2 today as a Bill extending the high-speed rail line to Manchester was presented to Parliament.

Campaigners warned that the Bill, which seeks powers to lay new track and build new stations beyond Crewe, “will sanction immense and irreversible destruction to the environment.”

Protesters gathered in Manchester and Birmingham in the morning, carrying banners reading: “HS2 track of lies,” and chanting: “We don’t want your high-speed greed.”
Actions were also planned in other areas along the proposed HS2 route.

A spokesperson for Stop HS2 North said: “HS2 has a blank cheque to commit terrible and irreversible ecocide.

“This money ought to be used to properly fund our NHS, improve local transport links, help ordinary people with the rising cost of living and to resolve our energy crisis.”

Climate activists also argued that there is no longer a business case for HS2, following the Tories’ decision last year to axe the Birmingham to Leeds leg of the route.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hailed the Bill today as a “landmark moment” in improving the country’s rail connections, saying that it lays “the foundations for Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

Phase 2b of the high-speed rail will cut journeys between London and Manchester by about 55 minutes, and between Birmingham and Manchester by 45 minutes, according to the Department for Transport.

But Labour described the Bill as a “monumental missed opportunity” to drive investment in the north of England and Midlands and as a “betrayal.”

“The Conservatives promised Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 eastern leg in full.

“This is confirmation that their commitments to communities across England are hollow,” shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that while he was committed to bringing HS2 to the city, it was the “wrong plan” for northern England.

Trade unions representing transport and HS2 construction workers also welcomed the legislation but called for recent cuts to the project to be cancelled.

GMB national officer Charlotte Childs stressed: “Uncertainty over the status of major projects is damaging and GMB is clear that recent cuts to HS2 should be reversed."

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This is a vitally important infrastructure project for our country’s future connectivity, prosperity and fight against climate change.  

“To truly benefit from high-speed rail, we again call for the HS2 to go all the way to Scotland.”

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