The preferred route for the United Kingdom's new High Speed Rail Link Northern Route has been announced by the government. The preferred route for phase two takes in five new railway stations: Toton, Sheffield, Leeds, and Manchester Airport. Phase One of 'HS2', the route from London to Birmingham, has already been controversial, in terms of both cost and environmental impact.
What is HS2?
Hs2 will link Britain's aging railway network with HS1, Britain's existing High Speed Rail Link which connects London with Kent and the Channel Tunnel. HS2 is a new line, designed to ease the many problems with existing rail network which was designed in Victorian times. The rail link will reduce journey times between Birmingham & Manchester to around 41 minutes, and cut the journey time from London to Manchester from two hours and eight minutes to one hour and eight minutes.
Initially the line will run between London and the West Midlands, with 400m long trains carrying up to 1100 passengers. Trains will travel at up to 250 miles per hour, which is faster than any current operating speed in Europe. Trains could travel up to 14 times per hour in each direction. The Northern Route will see a 'Y' shaped direction, taking passengers from Birmingham to either Manchester or Leeds.
The project aims not just to cut journey times, but increase capacity, helping the massive growth in rail user numbers. Some think that HS2 will be more than just a rail link, that it will help bridge the current North - South divide. Construction of the London to West Midlands route is expected to start in 2017
The Northern Route of HS2 is not expected to be operational until at least 2032, so eager rail travellers will have to wait some time yet to travel high-speed to the capital from the North of England.
Why is HS2 controversial?
At the time of writing, there are 70 known groups that oppose HS2. Reasons differ, from the £32.7 billion estimated cost, to the countryside that will disappear. Eighteen councils on the proposed route oppose the scheme, claiming that taxpayers cannot afford it, also there are concerns about greenhouse gases. As a result, the government has announced that it will create extra tunnels and cuttings, lessening the impact on the landscape.
Those living along the proposed route may be entitled to compensation, especially where they are trying to sell their home and cannot as a result of the development. The government's initial consultation on property and compensation is due to close on 31st January 2013. A scheme of this size is bound to pose many problems and opposition.
Why does Britain need HS2?
Britain lags far behind France and other European countries in terms of high-speed railways. Our aging rail network is bursting at the seams in many places, and concerns that the network will reach absolute capacity in the next few years highlight the need for faster, more frequent, well-connected trains.
The government estimates that 40,000 jobs will be created with the construction of HS1 & HS2.