The UK Government today gave the green light for the first phase of a high speed rail network (HS2) linking some of the United Kingdom’s most important cities. This initial phase will see the construction of 140 miles of track between London and Birmingham with an estimated completion date of 2026. Plans are to construct additional links between Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester by 2033.
Speaking on today’s decision, Transport Secretary Justine Greening commented: “It is not a decision that I have taken lightly or without great consideration of the impact on those who are affected by the route from London to Birmingham. I took more time to make this decision in order to find additional mitigation which now means more than half the entire 140-mile line will be out of sight in tunnels or cuttings.”
Once completed, HS2 will transport up to 26,000 people each hour on journeys vastly reduced in time, with Birmingham to London journeys shortened from 1 hour and 24 minutes to just 45 minutes. It is thought that the second phase will half journey times from Birmingham to Leeds to 57 minutes and trim an hour off the current 2 hour and 8 minute trip from Manchester to London.
79 miles of the project’s first phase will be concealed in cuttings and tunnels to dramatically reduce the visual and environmental effects on the British countryside - a major factor for those opposing the realisation of this high speed rail link. Of the matter, Greening confirms: “I am certain this strikes the right balance between the reasonable concerns of people living on or near the line, who will be offered a generous compensation package, and the need to keep Britain moving.”