An introduction to the UK HS2 Railway Network project
In terms of transport infrastructure projects currently under way in the UK, HS2 is probably one of the most ambitious. It has also been one of the most controversial with protests against the economic and environmental impact of the project, among other things. While HS2 is not actually due for completion until 2026 it’s still very much at the forefront of the conversation in engineering and construction right now.
Why does HS2 exist?
The project has been designed to help take some of the pressure off the existing rail network, in particular on some of the more overcrowded commuter routes. “HS” stands for High Speed, as the new network will also be designed to significantly reduce the time that it takes to make some of the more popular commuter journeys along its route. Despite the fact that HS2 should make more seats available, and reduce commuting times, it has not always been a popular project. This is primarily due to the escalating cost and the negative impact on some areas of the country.
What will HS2 deliver to the UK?
- A new railway line that will connect up London and the West Midlands. The network will run from London Euston to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
- A network that can handle larger, faster trains. According to the government, HS2 will be able to handle 400 metre long trains that each have more than a thousand seats. The trains designed for the HS2 network will operate at speeds up to 250mph – that’s quicker than any other train in Europe.
- More seats available per hour. HS2 will make commuting conditions much more pleasant, in particular by providing more space for passengers. The new trains will have three times the current capacity of trains between London and the Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with 15,000 seats available per hour.
- New stations. HS2 construction will include a new station next to Manchester Piccadilly and one at Manchester Airport.
- A service that is available from 2026. This was the original completion date that was earmarked for the project. However, it has since been speculated that this might be overly ambitious. Some have said 2032 – 2033 is a much more likely estimate.
- Significantly shorter journey times for commuters. For example, for those regularly commuting between London and Crewe, daily one way travel time will drop from 90 minutes to 55. For passengers traveling between Leeds and London this will reduce from 130 minutes to 81 and for Manchester to London travelers from 127 minutes to just 67.
- The potential to improve congestion on the roads and reduce the volume of air traffic. According to government estimates, 4.5 million journeys every year could be transferred from the air to HS2 and 9 million from road traffic to HS2.
- Closing the North-South divide. Faster travel times along HS2 will bring the cities in the north closer to London and make them easier to access.
HS2 is clearly a very ambitious construction project with a lot of great potential. Whether it reaches that potential, on target and on budget, will depend on the progress of the next few years.
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