The innovative rail improvement plan, HS2, is expected transform the future of travel.
HS2 will offer faster journeys across the country, emitting 17 times less carbon than the equivalent domestic flight and seven times less carbon than the equivalent car journey.
While impressive, the government have been accused of a “betrayal of trust” for scaling back railway plans for the north in a bid to cut costs.
For example, the high-speed line was due to be extended from the West Midlands to Leeds, but HS2 will now only be built as far as a new East Midlands Parkway station, around six miles south-west of Nottingham. That means London-Leeds journey times will be one hour and 53 minutes, some 32 minutes longer than planned.
HS2 is a new high-speed railway service that will link up London, Midlands, the North and Scotland. It will serve over 25 stations, connecting approximately 30 million people. It is expected to cost around £96bn.
By building a new railway line, HS2 will be placed on their own dedicated tracks. Slower, local trains will co-exist on existing lines to make room for commuter trains.
What are the plans?
The construction of HS2 will be split into three phases – Phase One linking London and the West Midlands; Phase 2a linking the West Midlands and the North via Crewe; and Phase 2b completing the railway to Manchester and Leeds.
But the Government’s latest rail announcement is a significant shift away from previous plans and recommendations.
The high-speed line was due to be extended from the West Midlands to Leeds. This would have cut journey times between London and Leeds to one hour and 21 minutes.
But HS2 will now only be built as far as a new East Midlands Parkway station, around six miles south-west of Nottingham. That means London-Leeds journey times will be one hour and 53 minutes, some 32 minutes longer than planned.
Meanwhile, it was announced HS2 trains will run directly into central Nottingham and Derby, cutting London journey times to 58 minutes.
Following backlash over the scaling back of railway plans for the North, Boris Johnson has since insisted the government will investigate ways of extending HS2 to Leeds.
Johnson wrote: “HS2 will come to Sheffield, meaning a trip to or from London will take just one hour 27 minutes – precisely the same as under the old HS2 plans.
“We’ll look at how to get HS2 to Leeds too, with a new study on the best way to make it happen.
“But high-speed rail is grindingly slow to build. Under the original blueprint, first drawn up more than a decade ago, Yorkshire would have not have seen the benefits of our investment until at least the 2040s.
“Levelling up can’t wait that long. And towns like Wakefield, Doncaster, Dewsbury and Huddersfield would have suffered as trains were taken off the existing main lines.”
How will people benefit from HS2?
Once complete, HS2 said it “will significantly improve connectivity in the North and Midlands and will also integrate the existing network serving stations into Scotland, creating 500,000 extra jobs and 90,000 homes around HS2 stations.”
The three main benefits are said to be:
Capacity - Freeing up more space for commuter and freight services and relieving overcrowding.
Connectivity - Being a new and improved link between cities to “level up” the country.
Carbon - HS2 will be the low carbon option for long-distance travel, emitting 17 times less carbon than the equivalent domestic flight and seven times less carbon than the equivalent car journey.
What have people said ahead of the revised plans?
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, the Tory MP for Newark in Nottinghamshire, concurred, telling the programme: “I think if NPR doesn’t go ahead, there will be legitimate disappointment because I think that in the long run will be a false economy for the Midlands and the North together.”
Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, has accused Mr Johnson of “pulling the whole damn rug from under our feet and ripping up the floor behind him”.
The Government-commissioned Oakervee Review warned in 2018 that the final bill for the entire Y-shaped network of HS2 could reach £106 billion.