Most Mancs already know there is a complex network of underground tunnels and unfinished tube shops hidden beneath their feet.
From the most famous – a Guardian telephone exchange that runs from Chinatown to Ardwick – to the Picc-Vic railway tunnel scheme, an unfinished underground railway first designed for Manchester in the early 70s, the idea of building down is hardly a new one.
But now, Manchester’s new leader Councillor Bev Craig is making the case again as she squares up to the Government and HS2 Ltd – calling on them to consider an underground station for Manchester as part of a ‘once in a lifetime project’.
Council bosses are warning that if the currently proposed new overground station at Manchester Piccadilly goes ahead, huge potential to future-proof the city could be squandered.
“The overground plan is the wrong one,” Bev Craig said.
“It will be cheaper to build in the short term but in the long term it will cost the region’s economy much more in missed opportunities.
She also told The Manc: “We’re saying to government, listen if you’re going to build something in the 2040s that’s going to take Manchester into 2050s, 60s, 70s, we need something that’s going to work for us in the long term.
“There’s still some negotiation to be had on HS2 and it’s my job to make sure that we’re holding to account government if they’re not sticking to their promises.”
An analysis conducted by the council shows the economic benefits to the city and region of the underground option would be £333m a year greater than those delivered by the existing plan, which would see a second overground station to be built next to the existing Manchester Piccadilly.
Whilst bosses acknowledge the overground option will still bring benefits, they say it will fail to maximise them – and even create some issues of its own, when compared with the preferred underground option.
They argue an overground station would swallow a great amount of vital land, as well as create the need for unwelcome infrastructure, including huge, unsightly concrete viaducts which would overshadow parts of east Manchester.
Future-proofing transport is also a concern, as modelling commissioned by the Council and TfGM (the Bechtel report) has shown that the overground would be at full capacity from day one.
This means that there would be no scope for increased passengers numbers in the year ahead, compromising both its reliability and resilience.
By comparison, the underground option would address these issues and create a station designed to support growth and better integrate with surrounding areas and other modes of transport.
The full statement from Councillor Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We welcome the fact that HS2 is still coming to Manchester. We know that we might be perceived as fortunate relative to other northern town and cities which are also pressing cases for rail improvements.
“But that only makes it all the more important that what we maximise the benefits of what is being delivered, not just for the city but for the North as a whole.
“The overground plan is the wrong one. It will be cheaper to build in the short term but in the long term it will cost the region’s economy much more in missed opportunities.
“It will also cause greater disruption while it is constructed and leave a legacy of unsightly viaducts and other overground infrastructure which limits our ability to create new homes or jobs.
“Restricting the potential of what will be one of the best-connected places in the country makes no sense at all.
“Nor does creating a station with capacity restraints which will undermine its reliability and resilience from day one.
“We urge the Government and HS2 Ltd to reconsider the compelling case for an underground station.
“This would not only solve the problems posed by the overground option but would create a station empowered to support growth, jobs and other opportunities and help realise the Government’s proclaimed levelling up ambitions.
“If they want the option which delivers the greatest benefits for years to come, they need to look below the surface.”
Army ‘on standby’ as UK prepares for more postal, rail, lecturer and nurses strikes in December
The armed forces are said to be “on standby” to help fill various roles ahead of a new raft of strikes across health, education and postal sectors this month.
Royal Mail workers, university lecturers and sixth-form college staff are committed to walking out over pay disputes on Wednesday, 30 November as various organised strikes persist across the country.
Countless employees from various industries who feel they are underappreciated and underpaid are set to join the ongoing rail strikes, as well as the thousands of nurses expected to follow suit on the picket line throughout December.
Now, as per the interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery, given the strikes’ proximity to Christmas, roping in the British military now seems likely. Dr Emma Runswick of the British Medical Association said there is there a simple way to put an end to mass industrial action: pay people fairly.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday morning, Cordery confirmed that while the army is waiting in the wings to help fill relevant NHS roles, “the reality is if the army or other armed forces step in it will very much be at the margins rather than going out and driving ambulances”.
It remains unclear whether army personnel will be needed to combat the impending labour shortage across other industries. Regardless, the Communication Workers Union are going ahead will a series of strikes in December.
Having formally called on Royal Mail employees to join the national demonstrations for strike action on the following days:
Friday, 9 December
Sunday, 11 December
Wednesday, 14 December
Thursday, 15 December
Friday, 23 December
Saturday, 24 December
As for rail workers, RMT Assistant General Secretary Eddie Dempsey shared a similar sentiment, assuring that while the train drivers and the transport sector, in general, are standing firm, negotiations with Network Rail and other operators continue this week.
In addition to RMT members across 14 rail companies striking on 13-14 and 16-17 December, as well as 3-4 and 6-7 January, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said that staff working onboard and station roles will take action against Avanti West Coast on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December.
Meanwhile, the National Education Union (NEU) which represents 77 sixth-form colleges in England are also striking over pay, stating that in real terms, teachers have suffered a pay cut of around 20% since 2010.
Furthermore, the University and College Union (UCU) already held a 48-hour strike last week and is now set to hold another 24-hour walkout among university staff. As well as organising a large rally in London, union members across at least 150 different institutions will be joining the December strikes.
Look around brand new Coronation Street set as ITV unveils Weatherfield Precinct
The Coronation Street set has had a massive expansion, with a new Weatherfield Precinct unveiled today.
The location has often been name-checked in the popular soap, but for the first time, cast members will be able to film scenes there.
The set won’t hit our screens until 13 January – but The Manc headed down for a little sneak peek.
The two-storey Weatherfield Precinct set is built around a children’s play park, with a row of shops carefully constructed by the Coronation Street set designers.
There’s everything from a charity shop to a Chinese takeaway to a dessert bar.
Above the shops sits a row of maisonettes with a balcony running in front.
There’s incredible attention to detail throughout, from the litter on the floor (which includes a packet of a fictitious crisp brand) to the fake sausage rolls in the bakery windows to the washing lines nailed to the walls.
Everything has been deliberately weathered and aged, so it looks like it’s been there for decades rather than carefully built in 2022.
The new Weatherfield Precinct set was unveiled today by members of the cast including Jack P Shepherd, Sally Dynevor, Antony Cotton, Jimmi Harkishin, Daniel Brocklebank, Channique Sterling-Brown, Elle Mulvaney, Tanisha Gorey, James Craven and Colson Smith.
It’s been added as an extension to the existing iconic set, which spans 7.7 acres near MediaCityUK.
Producer Iain MacLeod said: “Hats off to our design and construction teams who have conjured a totally convincing new precinct for our drama! They took their inspiration from Salford’s many real-world, late 20th century shopping areas and what they have created is a brilliant, characterful space to tell a diverse range of stories.
“Expect to see teens hanging out at the dessert shop, families enjoying the play area and, after dark, a rogues’ gallery, up to shady business in the ginnels. I am really excited by the arrival on screen of this much discussed but never seen corner of the Weatherfield universe.”
Head of design Rosie Mullins explained the process: “Back in 2013 Coronation Street moved into its new home at Media City. With this move came exciting potential to continue to develop and expand our Weatherfield Community onsite.
“The first expansion came in the form of Victoria Street and Weatherfield Police Station builds back in 2018.
“In February 2021 I set about the first pencil drawings for a very exciting new exterior build – Weatherfield Precinct. We have often heard about this precinct and although we have filmed over the years at a range of shopping locations, we had never established our own Weatherfield Precinct.
“It had always intrigued me – what would it look like and who would we find there? The opportunity to bring to life a colourful and grittier area of Weatherfield was so exciting!
“Weatherfield Precinct was inspired by the 1960s shopping precincts that we see across many areas of the UK. In designing this the team gathered hundreds of images with a particular focus given to those in our local Manchester and Salford area. I wanted there to be aspects of the Precinct that people from all walks of life identify with and recognise. I wanted it to reflect how communities develop but aspects of them can also feel like stepping back in time.
“In this Precinct we find an array of businesses, a playground, residential flats, a small ginnel, Weatherfield community hub and a very colourful community recycling centre.
“Working with Iain on what the writing team needs from the Precinct has meant that we have managed to pack so much into this new set! I cannot wait to see the arrival onscreen of Sweety Nuff dessert & milkshake shop, Gregory Pope Foundation Charity Shop, Rutlands bakery, Pound Outlet and Bargainanza Pawnbrokers.
“The most incredible part of this has been watching this build rise from a small car park with a mass of ugly steel, concrete and timber to the beautifully constructed, characterful 1960s 2 storey precinct that we see today.
“This build has been one of the most enjoyable builds that we have undertaken and showcases the many behind the scenes talents that the programme has to offer. I am incredibly proud of the detail, the quality of the build and for what it offers for future storytelling for the show. I am also so very proud of how it was brought to life by our in-house talented Design Team.”