Plans for HS2 have taken significant strides forward this summer. Several big announcements have been made in recent months and today I'm going to summarise them in this article.
Quick Summary of HS2
High Speed 2 (HS2) has been described by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling as 'the world’s most advanced passenger railway and the backbone of our rail network'. It will be a high speed rail network designed to more easily connect the North with the South by shortening journey times and servicing major cities between London and the North.
The project will be split into 2 phases and the overall completion date is planned for 2033 at a cost of circa £56bn.
Phase 1 of the project will connect London with Birmingham and considerably shorten journey times between the Midlands and the Capital. Whilst phase 2 will be divided into 2a & 2b seeing the line continue from Birmingham to the Northern cities of Manchester and Leeds (Via the East Midlands).
Despite some opposition, the project is now at the point of no return. In February this year, phase 1 of the project received Royal Assent, which was essentially the last hurdle before work could officially begin on the £56bn railway.
In July this year, 2 major announcements were made in relation to the HS2 project. The first was the confirmed routes for phases 2a and 2b of the project. The second was £6.6bn worth of contracts being awarded for major sections of work relating to phase 1 of the project.
It has been confirmed that Phase 2a will connect Birmingham Curzon to Crewe where HS2 will then run on existing services to other northern cities such as Liverpool.
Whilst phase 2b will see a new line run from Birmingham via the East Midlands Hub towards Leeds. A key reason for the delayed confirmation of phase 2 was the decision to service the central Sheffield station, when it was originally proposed that the line would only service Meadowhall station in Sheffield.
Benefits of High Speed 2
Reduce Overcrowding - It is hoped that HS2 will double capacity on several major rush hour services allowing for more trains, hence less overcrowding. With HS2 being largely used for longer journeys, it is also hoped that this will free up more local services, again avoiding overcrowding.
Shorter Journey Times - Trains on the HS2 line will be able to travel up to 250 mph, therefore shortening journeys by up to half in some instances. For example, it is thought that a journey from Birmingham to Manchester will be reduced from 80 mins to 40 mins, with similar time savings being made on trips from Birmingham to London.
Economic Benefits - One of the key reasons for building HS2 was to help bridge the North South divide in the UK and making North and South more accessible to each other. As well as the estimated 25,000 jobs (Including 2,000 apprenticeships) that will be created by HS2, it is hoped that making the north and south more accessible will have a significant economic benefit, especially to the Midlands and North.
When Will HS2 Happen?
Enabling works are already underway for phase 1 of the project with the major civils works planned to start in 2018 (likely Q1 or Q2). Phase 1 is planned to be operational in 2026. Whilst phase 2a to Crewe should be completed by 2027. Finally phase 2b should be completed by 2033.
It's been a long wait for HS2 to really get going, but it seems the wait is almost over. The route has now been finalised, major contracts have already started to be awarded, and it won't be long before major civils work is underway.
You can track all the most recent news relating to HS2 on their government website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/high-speed-two-limited
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