UK Government Announces Route for HS2 Rail Project

The UK Department for Transport has announced the preferred route for the new HS2 High-Speed rail project in northern England.

The government is investing £32 billion in the project to operate the HS2 network from Birmingham to Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton, Sheffield, and Leeds to London.

UK Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said, ‘There will be a comprehensive programme of engagement on all aspects of phase two and a public consultation, planned originally for 2014, has been brought forward to begin ahead of schedule this year.

HS2 will be integrated with the existing national railway network allowing cities and towns in England and Scotland beyond the high speed tracks – including Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Preston, Warrington, Lancaster, Carlisle, Durham and Darlington – to benefit also from new connections and dramatic time savings thanks to trains able to use both conventional and high speed railway lines.’

The new Y-shaped rail route from Birmingham will include the construction of 211 miles of new rail track and five stations.

An earlier report had suggested that the new high-speed rail link will offer improved connectivity to the main international airports and the Channel Tunnel, with onward connections to the European HSR network, while the new routes will also be providing fast rail access from the UK’s regional cities to London.

Chancellor George Osborne said, ‘If our predecessors had not decided to build the railways in the Victorian times, or the motorways in the middle part of the twentieth century, then we would not have those things today.’

Greengauge 21 Reports HS2 to Benefit UK Regions

Greengauge 21, a UK based non-profit company which is investigating the concepts related to HS2, a UK high speed rail network, has reported that the service will bring economic benefits to the West Midlands area of the UK.

The HS2 high-speed rail link is under construction between London, the Midlands and Northern England. The new report suggests that the service will offer improved connectivity to the main international airports and the Channel Tunnel for onward connection to the European HSR network.

The route will also provide fast rail access from the regional cities in the UK to London, as well as to other European business hubs.

Greengauge 21 director, Jim Steer, said, ‘There are good reasons to believe that the regions will benefit more than London, because the capital enjoys excellent connectivity already. While HSR will improve transport accessibility across Britain, in the key regional cities the difference will be transformational.’

Centro, a UK based organisation operating bus, rail and the Midland Metro Tram transport in the West Midlands area, has viewed Greengauge 21’s report positively. The Centro chief executive officer, Geoff Inskip, said, ‘We’ve seen rail demand soar in the last decade, and a doubling in passenger numbers in the West Midlands.

We’ve consistently spoken of the benefits HS2 brings in delivering more capacity to our crowded rail network, so it’s particularly pleasing to see Greengauge 21 has noted there will be economic benefits in cities like Coventry which will enjoy better regional connections and reduced congestion.

With new fast, direct services and the significant capacity released on our existing lines for more passenger and freight services this report makes it clear the regions can enjoy greater benefits than London.

In fact, HS2 will help us to rebalance our economy and allow us to be more competitive as regions.’

‘Fantastic’ HS2 will go ahead

Today’s decision by the government to go give the green light to HS2 was greeted as “a fantastic day for the West Midlands” by business leaders in Birmingham but warned that the government must introduce legislation to start the project this year.

Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group (BCCG), said HS2, part of a larger High Speed Network, would create a fundamental change to the way people travel.

He said: “This is a fantastic day for the West Midlands. However, the imperative is to press ahead with all speed because delay will simply stall the impetus that today’s announcement has given.

“The transport secretary Justine Greening has indicated that it could be another two years before Parliament even votes on the proposition. This must not been allowed to happen. Delay would be damaging for the project and it would push it into the heart of an election campaign.

“The national interest must come first and business in Birmingham urges the government to press on with HS2 now so that it does not become bogged down in unnecessary Parliamentary procedures.

“The Government must look towards not only with pressing with the London-Birmingham HS2 link but publishing a plan soon for the route of the line north of Birmingham.

“HS2 will mean it will take just 39 minutes to travel from London to Birmingham and will help erode the north south divide by drawing investment and skilled workers away from the economic stranglehold of the south east.

“With rail growing at six per cent a year, and with no sign of abating, the Chamber applauds the Secretary of State for her decision to back the only viable solution to this looming capacity crunch.

“We have the Victorian’s to thank for our current railway network and it has served us well, but we are now well into the 21st Century and it’s about time we left our mark on the UK’s railway network.”

He added that HS2 has the potential to provide a huge to boost the region’s economy by creating jobs and making it easier for businesses to access markets quickly and efficiently.  In backing HS2 today the Secretary of State will help create 22,000 jobs in the West Midlands and boost the regional economy by £1.5 billion per annum.

HS2 forms part of a larger High Speed Network that will eventually link the main cities of the UK to one another and provide a fundamental change in the way people travel.  The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group and the business community in general has been a vocal advocate of HS2.  Indeed a survey of Chamber members found that over 70 per cent of businesses in Birmingham and Solihull support HS2.