HS2: What is the route, when will it be finished and what will it cost?

Image source, Bennetts Associates
Image caption,
HS2 platforms in Manchester Piccadilly would be covered by a folded roof

The HS2 link between the East Midlands and Leeds is being scrapped.

The announcement is part of the government's £96bn rail programme - although only about half is new investment.

What is HS2?

HS2 is a massive project intended to create high-speed rail links between London and major cities in the Midlands and North of England.

It will cost tens of billions of pounds and is aimed at cutting journey times and increasing capacity.

It's hoped HS2 will create jobs and grow the UK economy outside London.

But HS2 has faced delays and mounting concerns over the exact route and spiralling costs.

What is the HS2 route and how is it changing?

HS2 was originally meant to connect London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Work has already started on the first phase, linking London and the West Midlands.

The next section will extend the line to Crewe.

The final phase was to take HS2 to Manchester and Leeds.

But the Leeds leg is being scrapped. This had been billed as reducing the journey time from London to Leeds by 50 minutes.

What is happening under the Integrated Rail Plan?

Under the government's Integrated Rail Plan:

  • The HS2 eastern leg to Leeds will not go ahead. Instead, a shorter high-speed line will link Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway. HS2 trains will then go as far as Sheffield on upgraded mainline tracks
  • There will be a high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshire
  • There will not be a new fast line between Leeds and Manchester, via Bradford. Instead, there will be upgrades to existing lines
  • A study will look at how to take HS2 to Leeds in future

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the measures will mean faster journeys up to 10 years earlier than planned.

But opponents said he was watering down previous plans.

What did the government say about HS2 to Leeds?

The decision not to go ahead with the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds goes back on previous government pledges.

In May, Mr Shapps said the Birmingham to Leeds link would go ahead - and would be delivered earlier than planned.

"We are going to complete HS2 and include HS2 on the eastern leg to Leeds," he said.

He suggested the eastern leg could be brought forward "quite dramatically" by building it "in a smarter way".

What about HS2 journey times?

The government says HS2 will cut Birmingham to London journey times from one hour 21 minutes, down to 52 minutes.

Once the second phase is complete, HS2 would also take an hour off journeys from Manchester to London.

The plan for the eastern leg was to join HS2 to the existing East Coast Main Line, leading to significantly faster journey times.

For example, travelling from London to Leeds currently takes two hours and 13 minutes. Under the HS2 plans it would have taken one hour and 21 minutes. The latest proposals mean it will take one hour and 53 minutes.

What's been the reaction?

Campaigners against HS2, including those living on the proposed route, have welcomed the news.

Others are not happy. Labour's Hilary Benn, who represents Leeds Central, said Mr Johnson had "repeatedly promised" the new high-speed Leeds-Manchester line would be "built in full", adding: "Leeds and the North have been betrayed".

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, representing councils and businesses, said not including Bradford in the east-west upgrade would be "disastrous" in economic terms.

Image source, HS2

When will HS2 open?

The London and Birmingham leg was due to open at the end of 2026. But this is now expected between 2029 and 2033.

The second phase was due to open in 2032-33, but has been pushed back to 2035-2040.

How much will HS2 cost?

The current estimated cost of HS2 is between £72bn and £98bn (at 2019 prices), compared with an original budget of £55.7bn in 2015 (at 2015 prices).

But this was made before the decision was taken to cancel the Leeds leg.

Why is HS2 over budget?

Management issues and unrealistic land valuations caused costs to spiral.

Former executive Doug Thornton previously told BBC Panorama initial estimates for buying property and land were "enormously wrong".

A 2019 Freedom of Information request revealed that property costs are forecast to reach £5bn, compared to the original £1.1bn estimate.

HS2 also failed to carry out extensive soil surveys, causing problems for digging and excavation, according to the project's former chairman, Allan Cook.

What about opposition to HS2?

HS2 has faced a lot of opposition - much of it to do with the environmental impact.

Pressure group Stop HS2 believes it will increase carbon emissions and damage areas of natural beauty.

Protesters, including veteran eco-protester Swampy, have built tunnels in an attempt disrupt HS2 construction.

Supporters of HS2 say it will help cut the number of cars and lorries on the motorways, and reduce the demand for domestic flights.

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