Preston to London: 1 hour 24 minutes
High Speed 2 (HS2) is the planned second high speed rail route in the UK. The first one, HS1, runs from St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel, a distance of 67 miles, and has been operating since 2007 at speeds up to 186mph.
HS2 will run from London Euston to Birmingham, Manchester, Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds. A total of some 330 miles of track.
Construction is planned to begin in 2017.
It is being built in two phases. Phase 1 will be from London to Birmingham and will open in 2026. Phase 2 will create a Y shaped network with one leg going to Manchester and another to Leeds.
Phase 1 will also link HS2 to HS1. Links to Heathrow will be from Old Oak Common on conventional lines.
High Speed Rail needs a very straight track and as few stops as possible to maintain the high average speed. So a brand new track is required. This will release capacity on the already almost full West Coast Main Line that winds from the North West to London. It is also difficult to run trains that are travelling at very different speeds on the same length of track.
Stations on the main route will get the biggest benefits but other stations will also see substantially improved journey times:
Phase 1 to Birmingham will enable High Speed compatible trains to operate to Glasgow via Preston. Knocking almost half an hour off the normal train time to London from Preston and beyond..
Phase 2 to Manchester will improve the time between London and Preston to 1 hour 24minutes.
What are “classic compatible” or hybrid trains?
HS2 phase 1 (open 2026)
HS2 “classic compatible” services will be calling at North West towns and cities from 2026, providing a step change in capacity and dramatically reduced journey times to and from the capital.
HS2 Phase 2 (open 2033)
The second phase once extended north from the West Midlands will provide further capacity improvements and potentially transformational journey time improvements from key North West centres to London, Birmingham and Heathrow.
*Journeys to Heathrow will be via Crossrail/Heathrow Express changing at a new HS2 station to be constructed at Old Oak Common
Taken as a whole the new line will transform rail capacity for passenger and freight in the UK and for both long distance and shorter commuting.
It will bring Manchester and Leeds to almost an hour from London. Birmingham has the potential for fast services to the continent, as has Manchester and Leeds..
London commuter towns such as Berkhamstead will be able to double services as well as faster trains according to Network Rail, August 2013.
The ability to travel long distances in a short time and improving links between the north and the midlands could change the way of thinking about travel. A day for a return business or leisure journey becomes a much more viable proposition allowing more time at the destination. I'll meet you in Birmingham in half an hour could be a common call. Forecasting travel is never easy, rail travel has increased dramatically in recent years. Felixstowe have a plan for railfreight that is being hampered. German high speed rail want to use the Channel Tunnel and are already using the line for freight. Manchester Airport could benefit from an increased capture area and domestic air travel could be reduced, reducing pressure on Heathrow. Car use is increasing in cost and restrictions. There is a lot of potential for very fast electrified rail.
Improvements in tele-communication could make travel less appealing for businesses but this capability already exists and so far it hasn't made an apparent difference. A salesman or businessman can't demonstrate his skill or show the full quality of his product via a camera. It lacks that personal touch. A holiday isn't as good on a TV.
The cost of HS2 is forecast at £28bn plus £14bn contingency a total allowance of £42bn, as per the recent statement in the House of Commons.
Since then several economic forecasting organisations have released different scenarios forecasting much higher costs based on further changes to the line or adding on other projects that are not dependant on HS2.
The routing of the line through the Chilterns has caused a strong campaign by residents close to the route who have campaigned to have it moved. This has increased costs due to tunnelling being offered. The local councils in Buckinghamshire have funded several legal cases. Naturally if you are impacted by something that is actually passing you by at very high speed then you might not be very pleased. Rejection of change is a growing theme in the UK by its ageing population, as well as a boom in nostalgia.
The Scottish Government has also made representations about extending the line northwards as has the North East of England.
The UK is well behind the rest of Europe on high speed rail. Mainly due to the London-centric focus it hasn't been deemed necessary to offer such transport beyond London. Statements such as the UK is a lot smaller are made although London to Glasgow is 400 miles. The difference from London to Manchester is the equivalent of moving Manchester to the commuter belt of London. How can that not be advantageous in both directions..
That Network Rail are rejecting calls to increase traffic on the West Coast Main Line must surely be ringing some alarm bells for when the economy is back on full steam.
2013 Route Consultation
2015 Royal Assent.
2017 Construction Begins.
2026 Phase 1 route opens.
2033 Phase 2 route opens.
It was stated by the minister responsible in the last government, Lord Adonis, that approximately £2bn a year could be afforded on new rail infrastructure and Crossrail would take most of this to 2017 when HS2 would start to increase its rate of spend. This seems to create an extended schedule for the project and a case could be made for increasing this rate of spend to bring the project forward.
Planning for the long term is difficult, the UK has a record of allowing others to get ahead like in energy. Sometimes it can de-risk a policy but often it gives advantage away and needs a game of catch up. If the economy is going to be re-balanced for the whole population it needs a swing from financials into technology and manufacture, from academically oriented jobs to skilful manual jobs, and more emphasis on all the regions and less on London. HS2 will help to bring the regions together.