Controversial HS2 routes revealed

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed the majority of the preferred HS2 route from Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds.

The announcement confirms that the government intends to push ahead with the controversial infrastructure project, that some critics claim will spoil some of Britain's most beautiful countryside.

Clarifying the majority of uncertainty over routes, the announcement does not include a final decision over where to site a new station in or near Sheffield. The original proposal was for trains from Birmingham to Leeds to stop at a new station built at Meadowhall, Sheffield's out-of-town shopping centre situated close to the M1 motorway. However, after complaints that this would disadvantage Sheffield, alternative options were made. A final decision will not be made until next year.

Grayling said: “HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century; one that works for all and makes clear to the world that Britain remains open for business.

“The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day. They represent the greatest upgrade to our railway in living memory.

“But while it will bring significant benefits, I recognise the difficulties faced by communities along the route. They will be treated with fairness, compassion and respect and, as with Phase One, we intend to introduce further compensation which goes over and above what is required by law.”

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid added: “The new HS2 routes laid out today will make sure our plans to create an economy that works for everyone remain right on track. We are determined to get both the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse firing on all cylinders and HS2 will help create new growth, jobs and homes right across the line.”

The first phase of the £56 billion railway is due to open in December 2026 and will see trains travel at high speed between London and Birmingham before continuing on the existing West Coast Main Line.

The new HS2 trains will carry over 300,000 people a day and will triple seats available out of Euston at peak hours, freeing up space on the existing network for additional commuter and freight services.

It is also hoped that HS2 will create around 25,000 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships during construction, while also supporting growth in the wider economy, worth an additional 100,000 jobs.

Joe Rukin, campaign manager at pressure group Stop HS2, said the announcement confirmed that once the high-speed railway was operating, existing intercity services to London would be reduced by up to two trains an hour.

He commented: “The government have finally come clean in admitting 'freeing up capacity' means for many cities 'losing the trains you already have', as the HS2 business case demands £8.3 billion worth of cuts to existing services.”