Published: 16th November 2016
The Government has announced its preferred option for the second stage of HS2 which will allow 200-250mph rail services to operate at full speed beyond Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds.
The line is forecast to open completely in 2033 when, the Government says, the full benefits of the project will become available. The amount of services between Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds will almost double to 48 offering 15,000 seats an hour compared to today’s 5000 while an hour will be saved on long distance journeys.
The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling also announced a £900 million contract award for preparatory work for the West Midlands to London route to be carried out. Contrary to popular opinion and echoed in the press, the project is not all about reducing travel times but also about increasing track capacity on the crowded main lines heading on a north-south axis from London.
HS2 services will be able to move 300,000 people a day including tripling the amount of seats from Euston in the rush hour which will then allow more commuter and freight services to run using the former main line slots. Employment will initially be boosted with around 25,000 jobs in the construction phase plus 2,000 apprenticeships while generating wider economic growth bringing an additional 100,000 jobs.
HS2 will directly benefit, the Government says, not only places directly served by the line but far and beyond as trains will operate on the new line and then switch to the existing network, just as Eurostar services did before HS1 was completed. New high speed trains will serve Stafford, Liverpool, Preston, Warrington, Wigan, Carlisle, Glasgow, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:
Our railways owe much to the Victorian engineers who pioneered them, but we cannot rest on their legacy when we face overcrowding and capacity problems. HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century.
The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day. They represent the greatest upgrade to our railway in living memory.
I recognise the difficulties faced by communities along the route who will be treated with fairness, compassion and respect and, as with Phase One, we intend to introduce further compensation which goes over and above what is required by law.
HS2 Ltd has awarded a £900 million contract to: Area South – CS JV (Costain Group Plc, Skanska Construction UK Ltd)
Area Central – Fusion JV (Morgan Sindall Plc, BAM Nuttall Ltd, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Ltd)
Area North – LM JV (Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd, J Murphy & Sons Ltd)
These awards will enable construction on the first phase of HS2 to start soon while planning for the second phase can be carried out.
The second phase will run on a western leg from Crewe to Manchester Airport and into a new station to be built adjacent to Manchester Piccadilly. Liverpool will also benefit via a connection from the West Coast Main Line also allowing HS2 services to reach Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The other spur, eastwards will run from the West Midlands to Toton between Derby and Nottingham, calling at a new station there before turning north to Yorkshire calling at Sheffield rather than Meadowhall, with a connection to the existing station. The high speed route will then head northeast to Leeds to a new station built alongside the existing one before connecting with the East Coast Main Line enabling high speed services to serve York, Newcastle and beyond using existing lines.
These include many pages of detail associated with the announcement but some of the route is yet to be decided on, requiring more investigations. The DfT is now open to process property and compensation claims following the announcement under the HS2 Express Purchase and Need to Sell schemes. These arrangements will continue until one year after the railway is fully operational.
The HS2 Woodland Fund has an initial allocation of £1 million to the Forestry Commission to support projects that will help restore, enhance and extend ancient woodland on private land or in partnership with multiple landowners.
The government originally set out plans for HS2 Phase Two in 2013 and Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe will open in 2027 while Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands will open in 2033.
Once complete, London and Manchester will be within 67 minutes of each other and Birmingham to Leeds a similar time, both roughly half of today’s journey time. But just as importantly, it will also vacate prime train slots between the major cities by moving long distance services onto the high speed network allowing more local services and freight trains to operate.
London to Leeds will take 81 minutes against today’s 131 minutes while London to Crewe will be under an hour saving 35 minutes and Glasgow to London will take 220 minutes, a saving of 50 minutes. The decision to allocate Heathrow’s third runway a guaranteed number of domestic slots is somewhat at odds to this HS2 project!