The Manchester underground
Plus: A woman waits for answers about one of Ireland's notorious mother and baby homes
Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s briefing, which is packed with things to do, news from across Greater Manchester and some lovely recommended reads. We also have an unusual home of the week for you: a former hotel in Wigan.
On Saturday, we published the thrilling inside story of how the family of a murdered Rochdale man won justice despite coming up against corruption in Sri Lanka. In case you missed it, you can read that piece here.
Last week, Dani reported on why it takes longer for non-white children in GM to get adopted. And Jack dug into the question of who scrutinises the local NHS, and how big health targets could be missed without anyone noticing. “As somebody who sat on that board, I never got my head around how to use my place to hold it to account,” one local figure told us about an important committee that makes big commissioning decisions. “There was a feeling that the governance structure was wrong, but nobody knew what that was.”
Tomorrow, we meet a Bury woman waiting for answers in Ireland — her secret sister may be one of the hundreds of babies buried in a sewage tank at the site of the Tuam mother and baby home. To get those stories in your inbox, hit that pink button below to join us as a member today.
This week’s weather ☁️
Our forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “Another mostly dry week of weather in Manchester is on the way. High pressure will keep our weather settled during the next few days, but we will still keep a lot of cloud cover, and sunshine will be at a premium.”
Monday ⛅️ Mostly dry, predominantly cloudy and chilly. Any sunshine that breaks through will be a bonus. Max 6°c.
Tuesday☁️ Cloudy with light winds and dry conditions. Cold. Max 5°c.
Wednesday ☁️ Noticeably milder despite being cloudy. A weak cold front will bring showery rain overnight. Max 8°c.
Thursday 🌦 Potentially the best day of the week for sunshine. Sunny intervals will develop once any lingering overnight rain clears. Breezy. Max 9°c.
Friday ☁️ Mostly dry and mild, but it will be cloudy. Max 9°c.
Weekend 🌧 High pressure is likely to be displaced to our south west, enough to allow for a mixed weekend driven by the jet stream. Expect rain and breezy conditions. Remaining mild.
For the full forecast visit Manchester Weather, which posts forecasts daily at 6.15am.
The big story: Manchester calls for an underground station (again)
Top Line: Manchester council leader, Bev Craig, and Andy Burnham are calling on the government to reconsider plans for an overground station at Piccadilly. The proposal is part of the plans for HS2.
“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.”
Context: That’s Craig talking about the 14,000 jobs the city would supposedly lose in development opportunities if the overground option went ahead. It would also leave half a million square metres of east Manchester in the shadow of viaducts and metres-high railways.
Why is this happening? Currently, Piccadilly hasn’t got the capacity to deal with the increase in rail services that will accompany HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (the plan to link Manchester better with other northern cities). A proposal for an underground station was put forward in June 2020, but it’s been a sticking point between Manchester’s leaders and central government for years now.
Nothing new: A Manchester underground is a well-worn topic. Ever since the Picc-Vic tunnel was proposed in the early 70s, the possibility of an underground network has featured in conversations about the city's future.
A look beneath the surface: According to analysis by the council, this is the case for the underground station:
Half a million square metres worth of prime land would be free for development opportunities that could create up to 14,000 jobs.
By 2050, the economic benefits to the city region would be £333 million a year greater than those delivered by the overground plan.
The underground station would be a through station, so trains go in at one end and come out the other, making for smoother journeys. The overground station would be a terminus station, with no through-line. So, trains to Liverpool and Leeds would have to reverse out of the station then go around the city centre to reach their destinations.
The overground station would be built only to accommodate current rail lines and capacity. This means it would be full from the day it opens, without scope for increased passenger numbers.
On solid ground: And, the case for an overground:
It would be up and running sooner. Seven years sooner, in fact. This would mean that adjoining plots for development could be developed faster, too.
It would be £4-5bn cheaper than the underground option.
In terms of passenger services — i.e. how much faster people will be able to get around — the differences are minimal. The underground would make journeys two to three minutes faster via its through-line.
Plus, the Department for Transport noted this increase in journey time would be cancelled out by the increased time taken for passengers to reach underground platforms.
Bottom line: The government rejected the underground plans back in November. But the new debate doesn't seem to be going anywhere, with the government's plans dubbed "HS2 on stilts." Today, as the government introduced a bill in parliament which will formally begin the process of extending HS2 from Crewe to Manchester, Andy Burnham threw his weight behind the underground option, saying:
We remain committed to working with the Government to bring HS2 to our city-region. But we remain of the view that this is the wrong plan, both for Greater Manchester and for the North as a whole.
Home of the week
The Bamfurlong Hotel in Wigan used to be a 19th-century pub but has now been converted into a characterful 6-bedroom home. It’s on the market for £500,000.
🕵️♂️ Grist to The Mill: If you want to tell us about a story or pass on some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Get in touch.
Other local news in brief
Vaccine mandate: On Saturday, scores of people attended a protest against the NHS Covid vaccine mandate. Next Thursday, any NHS staff who haven't had their first dose can expect to lose their jobs. More here.
Reece Tansey: A 15-year-old boy has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the murder of Reece Tansey, from Bolton. A second boy, also 15, has been charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 6 years. More here.
MP blackmail: William Wragg, a senior MP from Stockport, has agreed to meet with police to discuss his allegations that Conservative MPs were blackmailed into supporting Boris Johnson. More here.
Seven Sisters: Residents of the Seven Sisters tower block complex in Rochdale have opposed the £7,100 payments they have been offered to move out before the area’s redevelopment begins. More here.
Covid-19 update: Rates of Covid-19 continue to fall, as seen in our dashboard below. The case rate for Greater Manchester is 847.3, down 22.5%, compared to England’s 991.7, down 34.8%. Case rates are falling in every borough. They are highest in Tameside, around 1,000, and lowest in Stockport, around 800. Hospital admissions are also now falling, and the number of Covid-19 patients in critical care in our hospitals was down to 45 last week, from 56 the week before.
Our favourite reads
Adorning glory: The man who gave Oasis their look — The Independent
“If you don’t know Brian Cannon’s name, you’ll definitely maybe know his work. A graphic designer, photographer and art director, Cannon’s imagery has been seen on what can only be described as some of the most iconic record sleeves of the past quarter of a century – including, arguably, THE most iconic album cover,” writes longtime Miller David Barnett in this piece.
Beyond the inner limits — Big Issue North
A Manchester-born psychotherapist reflects on the people and places that shaped him. “Maybe what I’m really saying is we tell ourselves stories about the world to make life bearable, even as the rest of the world tells its stories about us. When we ask ‘Am I making sense?’ it is something we make, isn’t it, like on a loom in a factory: out of different bits of memories, and places and things.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Last Dance in Manchester — The New Yorker
Longtime Miller Ed Caesar writes about footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and the puzzle of Manchester United. “In the summer of 2003, Manchester United played a pre-season friendly match against Sporting Lisbon. During that game, Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, an eighteen-year-old winger with blond streaks in his hair, tormented United’s defense.”
Soul Power — Believer Magazine
We enjoyed this piece, which has a fleeting mention of our beloved Manchester. But we wonder if the author has confused a Cockney accent for a Mancunian one? "A clean-shaven fellow in a black robe from Manchester, England, who switches seamlessly between Punjabi and a Cockney brogue.”
The changing far-right
Our latest podcast investigates the tactics of the new far-right. Namely, vloggers harassing refugees at hotels and live-streaming it all to braying fans. The Mill’s Harry Shukman expands on his very popular recent weekend read: “Racist abuse, far-right vloggers and the monstering of refugee hotels.”
Harry talks about his story, but he also offers some interesting insights into how the new players in the far-right are organising online, based on his reporting in the North.
"The far-right today is what researchers call 'post-organisational." Which means — in addition to the classic old days of the national front and the BNP, which were structured organisations made up of beery racists — you've also now got internet influencers, like Amanda from Yorkshire Rose and James Goddard. Acting alone, finding common cause around certain issues, and growing audiences of tens of thousands of people."
Our to do list
🍺 Drink | Brewery Seven Brothers is hosting a vegan food and beer pairing this weekend. It’s the first of its kind and includes some yummy Indian food. Book here.
🗣 Talk | The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society is hosting an interesting talk tomorrow, called “Slavery and Manchester in the fight for Abolition”. Book here.
🎙 Open Mic | On Thursday, open mic event Long Story Short is at the Feel Good Club in the Northern Quarter. Expect a “wholesome heartwarming connection” with strangers. There’s also a speed dating session afterwards... Book here.
🕺 Dance | On Saturday morning, there are free flamenco taster classes at Instituto Cervantes on Deansgate. All abilities welcome, and all you need to bring is your enthusiasm. Book here.
🖼 Exhibition | Manchester Open Exhibition kicks off today at HOME. Over 400 Greater Manchester residents will be showing their artworks. Information here.
📚 Tour | What do George V, Gypsy Rose Lee and Bernard Bresslaw have in common? To find out, head over to Manchester Central Library which is doing a “Behind the Scenes” tour on Thursday evening. Book here.
Coming up: In 2014, an amateur historian made a list of death certificates of babies and children who were missing burial records. They’d all died at a Tuam mother and baby home, and a sewage tank was suspected to be their final resting place. One of those names belonged to a Bury woman’s secret sister. This is the story of Annette McKay’s long wait for justice.