SECOND phase of the £33bn High Speed Two (HS2) railway will be unveiled by the government this morning, with communities learning whether they will be affected by the twin lines from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.
However plans for a direct link to Heathrow have been postponed while the government decides on the future of airport expansion.
Sources with knowledge of today’s announcement suggest one leg of HS2 will head north of Birmingham, passing through chancellor George Osborne’s Tatton constituency before stopping at Manchester airport and Manchester Piccadilly station. There will also be a short branch line to Crewe and a connection to the existing West Coast route, cutting journey times to cities such as Liverpool.
The other leg is expected to run north-east from Birmingham to a new station in the Nottingham suburbs. There will be a further stop on the outskirts of Sheffield before the route ends in the centre of Leeds.
Labour peer Lord (Andrew) Adonis, who commissioned the HS2 project, yesterday told City A.M. why he believes it must be built: “There is a very strong business case for HS2. Without a new high-speed line we will end up spending more money upgrading the existing Victorian railway which is nearly 200 years old and incapable of adding significant extra capacity.”
HS2 will halve the journey between London and Manchester to 1hr 8min.
But the government is braced for furious attacks from people who fear their homes and businesses will be blighted and by economists who believe the costs are greater than the benefits and that other projects make more economic sense. Phase one is timetabled to open in 2026, with the second stage following in 2032.
“The government is deluded if it thinks HS2 will regenerate the North. The region’s long-term economic problems will not be solved by faster rail links to London,” said Dr Richard Wellings of the IEA think tank.
“Towns such as Doncaster already enjoy fast links, but remain among the poorest places in the country. HS2 will be used as an excuse to waste billions more on flawed regeneration schemes in northern cities, at further expense to taxpayers.”