What is HS2

What is HS2


HS2 is the government’s proposed ultra high speed rail line connecting Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with London.

What will it cost?

Phase 1: Proposed to provide a high speed service line from London to the West Midlands, with a connection to the West Coast Main Line (WCML) close to Lichfield, at Armitage.

It will also provide a connection to HS1, through north London, for services to the continent.

The current construction cost of phase 1 is £21.4 billion.

Phase 2: Proposed to extend the high speed service line from the West Midlands, with two branches:

1. A branch to Leeds with a connection to the East Coast Main Line (ECML) at Church Fenton, south of York.

2. A branch to Manchester with a connections to the WCML at Crewe and Wigan, south of Preston.

The current construction cost of phase 2 is £21.2 billion.

 Phase 1 and Phase 2, taken together, is referred to as the ‘y’ network.

Total construction cost of the ‘Y’ network is £42.6billion.

Total cost of rolling stock is £7.5 billion.

Total construction and rolling stock cost is £51.1 billion.

These costs were announced by the Government in June 2013 but are based on September 2011 prices.

Time Scale:

  • Construction due to begin in 2017
  • Phase 1 due to be completed in 2026
  • Phase 2 due to be completed in 2033 

Route Length:

Total length of Y network: 348 miles (555km)


•London to Birmingham: 138 miles (220km)

•Birmingham to Leeds: 116 miles (185km)

•Birmingham to Manchester: 94 miles (150km)

Train Speed:

•Maximum design speed: 250mph (400km/h)

•Maximum speed when first opened: 225mph (360km/h)

By way of comparison: Virgin Pendolino trains (WCML): 125mph (200km/h)

Eurostar (HS1); 185mph (300km/h)

Track details:

22 meters wide (fence to fence) includes 2 tracks, access road, drainage ditch and space for overhead line equipment (OLE).

Where the track runs in a cutting or on an embankment, the basic track width is increased by four to five times the height of the embankment or depth of cutting.

The height of the masts for the OLE will be 8-9 metres (26-30 feet).

Where noise is an issue, 3 metre (10ft) high concrete barriers will be built adjacent to the track.

HS2 trains:

HS2 will use 2 different types of trains, some will be solely used on the new high speed line and some will be designed to leave the dedicated line and continue north on existing lines.

Captive trains

So called captive trains will be restricted to travelling on the new dedicated high-speed lines between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

Captive trains will be built to have wider and taller bodies than those usually found in Britain.

These trains will be able to travel at up to 250mph (400km/h) on the dedicated high-speed line.

Each train, consisting of two separate 200m long units, will have the capacity to seat up to 1,100 passengers.

Classic compatible trains

These trains will be designed to travel at high speed on the new dedicated lines, however they will be smaller in height and width.  This will allow them to fit within the UK’s tunnels and other existing railway structures.

Classic compatible trains will be used to provide services further north on the WCML and ECML, to stations not directly on the dedicated high-speed line.

These trains will be able to travel at up to 250mph (400km/h) on the dedicated high-speed line but will be restricted to around 100mph (160km/h) on the existing lines because they do not have the capacity to tilt when going round bends.

Classic compatible trains will be in two sizes: 200m and 260m in length with550 seats and 650 seats respectively.


•City-centre stations: London (Euston), Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds.

•Parkway/Interchange stations: Old Oak Common (north-west London), Birmingham airport, Manchester airport, Toton (otherwise called East Midlands Hub: located midway between Nottingham and Derby), Sheffield  (Meadowhall).


•Maximum design capacity, when full Y completed: 18 trains per hour in each direction (one train every 100 seconds)

•Capacity usage, when only Phase 1 completed: 13 trains per hour in each direction.

Hours of operation:

It is currently planned that passenger services will operate between 05.00 and 24.00 on Monday to Saturday and between 08.00 and 24.00 on Sunday. Maintenance and engineering work will normally take place outside these hours i.e. overnight.


The construction of Phase 2 will take approximately 9 years in total. It is planned a period of testing will take place from early 2031, with the line expected to open in 2032/2033.

HS2 list the main adverse impacts during construction to be:

  • Noise from construction activity.
  • View of construction sites, lighting and equipment.
  • Local road diversions.
  • Dust generated at construction sites and along the track.
  • Pollution of surface water and groundwater, and changes in flows.
  • Temporary landtake for construction sites.

HS2 the case for and against.

We have provided below a brief summary of case for and against HS2.


Government case

Case against

Increased capacity. They say that our railways are running out of room, that the demand for long distance travel will continue to increase and that the investment is needed now to keep the country moving in the future. They say that HS2 is expected to carry over 300,000 people every day and that this increase in capacity will instantly improve journeys on existing railways. Increased capacity.  The Recent figures from the Office of rail Regulation show that long distance passenger numbers have dropped by 2.6%. The HS2 business model requires a 2.4% annual increase and a massive 30-40% increase when built. The reality is that most rail users travel short distances.The projected passenger numbers that are being used to support the current business case are grossly inflated. HS 1 the high speed link between London and Kent, is carrying only a third of the passenger numbers projected, as a result the Nation Audit Office has reported that HS1 will cost the taxpayer an additional £10 billion.With regard to the claim that HS2   will improve existing railways, what is not said is that the HS2 business model includes £7.7 billion worth of cuts to existing rail services!


Faster travel. The government say that HS2 will link 8 of Britain’s largest cities, reduce travelling time and that these enhanced links will rebalance growth and opportunities. Faster travel. Of course it is not disputed that travel between the locations will be faster, however in the HS2 business case it is assumed that most of a journey is lost time to the business world. This is clearly not the case, the vast majority of people travelling for business continue working during rail travel, making use of laptops, tablets, mobile phones or reading documents. Indeed most rail operators provide power points and Wi- Fi internet connections to assist with this.
Economic growth. They are forecasting that HS2 will generate over £50 billion in benefits for Britain and will revitalise the economy outside the south east of England. Economic growth. It is claimed that HS2 will help cure the north/south divide by supporting the emergence of dynamic and diverse industries. We ask how? Since the announcement of HS2 have we seen industries fighting to start new businesses or making commitments to do so? The answer is, No. The reality is that it may well make the divide greater with any benefits being sucked into London.HS2 is forecast to generate benefits of over £50 billion. We believe that this forecast is grossly exaggerated.
Regeneration and jobs. It is said that HS2 will redraw the country’s economic map, drive and support regional economies and regeneration and create job opportunities in the construction and operation of the line and other economic and business activity. Regeneration and jobs. There will undoubtedly be employment opportunities on a large scale if HS2 goes ahead. It is most likely however, that those people employed will be moved from   current projects that will have to be scrapped to make way for the funding of HS2. Do we want to see mass employment for a railway that will be grossly underused, as it is with HS1 currently, or would we rather see that employment and money used for the building of new hospitals, schools and the improvement of the existing rail system.





















Full details of the case for can been seen by visiting www.hs2.org.uk and for the case against by visiting www.stophs2.org and www.hs2actionalliance.org