Sketch of the future high-speed train station in Manchester (Photo: DR)

This should be one of the major infrastructure projects of Boris Johnson’s government. The latter had given the green light in 2020 to a project dating from 2006. A project that would finally show that the United Kingdom was embracing the idea of having an efficient high-speed train network.

Officially due to start in 2020, the HS2 (High-Speed 2) line should allow trains to run at 300 km/h between London-Euston on the one hand and Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds on the other. Such a project would considerably reduce journey times.

From London to Manchester in just over an hour

The Department for Transport estimates that the journey time between London and Birmingham would be reduced from one hour 20 minutes to 52 minutes. The journey from London to Manchester would be reduced from two hours 7 minutes to one hour 7. And the journey between Birmingham and Leeds would fall to 49 minutes from two hours. The trains would have a capacity of 1,100 seats and run up to 14 times a day in each direction.

The line was originally due to open in 2026. But delays have been mounting, due in part to the Covid crisis, rising property prices and problems with a tunnel under central London. While the total cost of the investment is slipping.

At last count, the project, originally costing £56 billion in 2015, could now cost UK coffers over £106 billion!

Budget cuts?

We’re now talking 2028-2031 for the first phase of the project, which is to link London to Birmingham. This is more than a quarter of a century after the opening of the first HS1 line in the UK. The latter links London St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel. There is even talk of 2035/2040 for the final phase, i.e. for the forked section which should run from Birmingham west to Manchester and east to the East Midlands and Leeds.

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And now it seems that the British government is no longer keen on the eastern branch of the future line. The information leaked at the end of last week in the British newspapers. Budgetary considerations seem to outweigh the real need for better land infrastructure in the country.

A decision by the British Department of Transport is imminent. But the rumour is already making MPs and representatives from the East Midlands and Leeds, who have been complaining for years about the appalling state of the network in their constituencies, jump up and down…