The government has revealed the 340 km-long preferred route for High Speed 2 (HS2) north of Birmingham
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The Y-shaped extension to the £32.7 billion network includes five new stations and is planned to complete by 2033.
The preferred route will serve Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Crewe and the East Midlands. It is expected the next phase will extend the network to Scotland.
Criticism has already been raised over Sheffield’s station which will be at Meadowhall shopping centre on the outskirts rather than in the city centre. Transferring from Meadowhall to the city centre could make the high speed service slower than existing connections.
A new East Midlands hub at Toton would also serve Nottingham and Derby.
Journey times from Manchester to London would be halved to one hour eight minutes while travelling to the capital from Leeds would take just 1 hour and 22 minutes.
A planned spur linking HS2 to Heathrow was not included in the announcement.
A consultation is planned to start this year with the phase two route planned to be finalized by 2014.
Network Rail described the project as a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ to transform connectivity in the UK.
David Higgins, Network Rail chief executive, said: ‘Unprecedented growth in the last ten years has seen passenger journeys grow by 50 per cent to almost 1.5bn a year and that number is set to continue to grow. More people use the railways today than at any time since the Second World War, on a network half the size it was then.
‘We are already delivering the biggest capacity improvement programme since the Victorian era, but even this is not enough. Without HS2 the West Coast Main Line – our busiest and most economically important line – will be full in a little over a decade. This is a rare chance to stop playing catch-up on capacity. If we get ahead of the game we can create huge opportunities for growth and connectivity.’
He went on to claim HS2 was ‘not a bolt-on piece of infrastructure’, explaining Network Rail was already planning how to integrate the rail line with existing routes.
City of Edinburgh Council leader Andrew Burns called for an ‘early announcement’ on the next phase which is expected to join the planned high speed rail connection between the Scottish capital and Glasgow.
Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: ‘It is essential that construction of a high speed rail route begins at both ends of the country and meets in the middle.
‘If it doesn’t then I believe our people and economy will be the losers - cut off from our major markets in England and Europe and at a huge economic disadvantage.’
Alan Muse, RICS director of built environment
HS2 has huge potential to drive economic growth, along with lowering carbon emissions and expanding the capacity and speed of the UK’s transport network, which still seriously lags behind other countries.
RICS believes high-speed rail will be hugely important in supporting economic growth and recovery by linking major economic centres for trade and investment. HS2 is highly anticipated by Midland and Northern cities which will benefit from the increased connectivity and wider property based opportunities. To deliver this growth we need to get the ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure projects up and running. With the HS2 and the Network Rail announcement on upgrade spending, rail has emerged as the transport sector that could begin to drive local economies. Setting up regional pipelines for this work must come next.
The launch of IUK’s infrastructure procurement road map is essential to this in bringing sponsor, client and supply chain closer together and working out what capability exists to deliver a project in the most cost effective and timely manner. RICS particularly welcome the move to transplant the ‘informed client’ approach from buildings to infrastructure, which amongst other benefits will mean earlier engagement and opportunities for SMEs.
Major public infrastructure schemes, such as HS2, require state-of-the-art project, carbon and cost management techniques to ensure optimum value for money and accountability. Through the use of new procurement models, information modelling and data benchmarking, RICS feels that investment in the relevant techniques and skills is the way to ensure project success.