3 Aug 2011

While the train ride from London to Beijing takes over a week, at the moment it takes you about four and half hours to go from London to Glasgow or Edinburgh. The UK Government aims to decrease that journey time to three and half hours through the development of High Speed Rail Two (HS2).
HS2 aims to link London to Scotland via a Y shaped train line that connects to Birmingham (in 49 minutes) and then breaks off one way towards Manchester (in 1 hour 20 minutes, down from 2 hours and 8 minutes) and the other way to Leeds (in 1 hour 20 minutes, down from 2 hours and 20 minutes) at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

It's estimated to cost £32 billion to construct but also estimated to generate economic benefits of approximately £44 billion and revenue of £27 billion. While only the proposed route from London to Birmingham has so far been released there has already been a lot of opposition voiced against the plan. A national You Gov poll found that 48% wanted the scheme cancelled compared to 34% in support (click here for additional polls on HS2).

While expensive, the line would also connect to Heathrow Airport as well as the Eurostar high speed line with the aim of reducing short-haul flights between London/Manchester/Leeds/Glasgow/Edinburgh. The development of high speed rail in Europe has seen some airlines abandon short haul flights in France and Germany as customers switched to rail, suggesting the environmental benefits of HS2 are strong. But in a world of government deficits the cost of HS2 seems too high for many.

The first phase of the project to Birmingham is scheduled for completion by 2026 with the branches to Manchester and Leeds expected to be completed by 2033.