HS2 gets Royal Assent

rail speed conceptWhilst things have been ticking along in the background for HS2, there haven’t been too many headlines recently – until now. After 3 years of work, the HS2 project received Royal Assent on February 23rd.

What exactly does this mean for HS2? Put simply, it means that work can start. Construction schedules can be drawn up, suppliers can begin to prepare their bid documents and also gear up their own supply chain requirements in preparation.
The project will not be without problems though. At every step of the way to date there have been objections to overcome. Issues around compulsory purchase of property, the environment and potential job losses in some areas have been, and will continue to be contentious issues. Those objections are counter balanced by the many that believe improved connections between the major cities will bring increased investment, business and jobs.

The government believe that HS2 will be a huge asset that will pave the way for increased capacity on the railways and improved connections in the largest cities generating jobs and growth in the economy.

It is anticipated that HS2 will create 25,000 jobs during construction as well as supporting wider growth in the economy estimated to be worth a further 100,000 jobs.

What is HS2
HS2 is a high speed rail network that will connect London to the West Midlands and later will go on to Leeds and Manchester too. Trains will travel up to speeds of 250mph, faster than anything else currently operating in Europe and would run more often in each direction. Journeys between the major cities would be cut by between 30 – 60 minutes in most cases, with a journey from Birmingham to London being cut from 1 hour 21 minutes to just 49 minutes. Trains would also have more seating capacity. By the time the whole project is complete it is anticipated there will be three times the current seating capacity per hour on trains between London and Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Why is HS2 needed?
One of the major reasons for ministers supporting HS2 is that the rail network in the UK is just about at capacity. Network Rail, the owner of the current infrastructure of the southern section of the West Coast Main Line and the existing quickest route between London and Birmingham is quoted as saying that the line will be effectively full by 2024. Many major commute routes between the major cities struggle to provide adequate services. Major cities in the North and South will be much better connected.

How long will it take to complete?
As expected it will take many years to complete. There is new track to be laid and stations to be built. It is hoped that the first phase connecting Birmingham to London will be in operation in 2026, with the second phase going into Manchester and Leeds by 2033. Those phase 2 developments include plans to build a spur to take HS2 to anew station at Manchester airport.

How much will it cost?
Currently the cost is set to be £56bn in total.

Read more about HS2 on the government site

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Image credit: Fabrizio Verrecchia