HS2 train

HS2: Key questions answered as ministers meet

HS2 should be scrapped according to a free market think tank.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Sajid Javid and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are meeting to discuss whether HS2 should be built.

Here are key questions about the controversial high-speed rail project.

Commit £39bn to Northern Powerhouse Rail, leaders tell Boris JohnsonStefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Do the Conservatives support HS2?

The party is split on the issue of HS2. Chancellor Sajid Javid is set to back the project, but the Tory benches erupted into shouts of “No” during Prime Minister’s Questions when Mr Johnson was asked if he agreed that HS2 should go ahead.

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Mr Johnson’s most senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, is said to be in favour of scrapping the scheme.

How much will HS2 cost?

The project was allocated an initial £56bn in 2015, but that figure rose to between £81bn and £88bn. A widely leaked review by Douglas Oakervee estimates HS2 could now cost up to £106bn.

HS2 Ltd has already spent around £8bn, including the purchase of land and property, ground investigation work, technical designs, IT systems, wages and public engagement.

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HS2 train decision delay
Photo: Siemens/PA

What about the timetable?

The first phase between London and Birmingham was due to open in 2026, but services between the cities are now forecast not to start until between 2031 and 2036.

The new line, if and when it is fully operational, will serve 300,000 passengers a day, or 100 million a year, research shows.

Trains on the London to Birmingham route are expected to be 1,300ft-long, with the capacity to seat 1,100 people. HS2 plans to run 18 trains per hour, but the leaked Oakervee report recommends cutting the frequency down to 14.

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What has gone wrong?

Whitehall spending watchdog the National Audit Office found that the project is over budget and behind schedule because its complexity and risks were under-estimated by the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd.

Who is in favour of HS2?

Political leaders in northern England and business groups claim the railway is vital to boost transport links across the region, providing increased capacity on an overcrowded network.

Today, Chancellor Sajid Javid has thrown his support behind HS2 in a key meeting with Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. It is understood that having reviewed costs and alternatives the Chancellor “broadly backs” the high-speed line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

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Construction firms warn that scrapping HS2 would cause major damage to the industry.

Ministers are meeting to discuss whether HS2 should be built.

Who are its opponents?

Several environmental groups claim building HS2 would cause huge damage to natural habitats, including dozens of ancient woodlands.

The Wildlife Trusts said HS2 will damage the ecosystems that could solve the climate emergency.

In their report – which uses data from 14 Wildlife Trusts affected by the plans – the organisation said is the “most comprehensive” assessment of the environmental damage that HS2 could cause.

Communities living on or near the route have expressed anger at the impact on their lives, while many people have said the project is simply too expensive and the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Ministers are meeting to discuss whether HS2 should be built.
Photo: HS2/PA Wire

What is the planned route?

Phase 1 will run between London and Birmingham.

Current designs involve a second Y-shaped phase launching in two stages: Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe followed by phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds.

HS2 will serve 25 new and existing stations from the south-east of England up to Scotland, and slash the journey time of many routes by reaching speeds of up to 250mph.

Getting from the capital to Leeds can take passengers two hours and 11 minutes but in the future, the journey time could be 50 minutes faster.

The journey from London to Edinburgh could be reduced by nearly 50 minutes to three hours and 40 minutes.

HS2 train designs revealed
Photo: Alstom Design & Styling 2019/PA Wire

What impact would HS2 have on journey times?

Examples given by HS2 Ltd include Manchester-London journey times cut from two hours and seven minutes to one hour and seven minutes, and Birmingham-London trips reduced from one hour and 22 minutes to 45 minutes.

When are we expecting a decision?

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons last week that a decision will be made “very shortly”.

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