The start of the year saw the Government commit the UK to extending the UK’s high speed rail line, first to Birmingham and then to Leeds and Manchester
In January Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Transport, announced government backing for High Speed 2 and set out a timetable for building the new high speed line from London to Birmingham, and then from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.
The announcement came after a long debate over the plans. Parts of the public vehemently opposed a project that would, they claimed, impact on traditionally peaceful parts of the English countryside. Industry, on the other hand, stressed the need for new infrastructure to boost the UK economy.
Shortly before the announcement, letters were published in the Telegraph and the Guardian stressing the need for the project. In the Telegraph, business leaders joined together in a strong call to raise the UK’s high speed rail network beyond the levels of Morocco and Saudi Arabia. In the Guardian, trades union leaders emphasised the value of thousands of engineering and construction jobs that would be created even before investment flowed to areas served by the new infrastructure.
Meanwhile the devolved government in Scotland called on Westminster to back the plans. It made clear that it was ready to further boost high speed rail and begin work on linking Scottish cities to the European network when England had built far enough north.
However, political debate also focused heavily on the possible damage to the countryside, and to rural communities in areas near to the high speed route between London and Birmingham.
Because of this, the new line will run for more than half its length in tunnels and cuttings to reduce noise and other disturbances to the surrounding environment.
While construction between London and Birmingham is expected to start in 2016, this will form the first phase of High Speed 2. There will then be a second Y-shaped phase, linking the line separately to Leeds and Manchester by 2033.
High Speed 2 in numbers
- £17.4 billion – the estimated cost of phase one
- £33 billion – the estimated cost of both phases combined
- 140 miles – the length of the route from London to Birmingham
- 79 miles – the length of tunnel and cuttings required in phase one
- 49 minutes – the projected journey time between Birmingham and London
- 250 mph - maximum design speed assumed
- 225 mph – likely speed upon opening
- 400 meters – length of largest trains likely to be used
- 33,000 jobs – expected job creation from phase 1 station developments
- 1,100 seats – the number of spaces on the new high speed trains