The government has released its plans for the second phase of Britain’s high-speed rail network, HS2.
The second phase builds on the now former Transport Secretary Justine Greening’s initial plans announced in January 2012.
Phase one, which will link London to Birmingham, will be supplemented by phase two, an onward line from Birmingham to the North of England.
The route northwards of Birmingham will include stops at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton near Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds.
When completed in 2032-33, HS2 will boast the fastest trains in Europe. Trains will operate at speeds of up to 250mph, surpassing France’s enviable TGV service.
The Department of Transport claims that the first phase of HS2 will cut the journey time from London to Birmingham from 1 hr 24 min to 49 min.
Following the second phase of construction, the journey time from London to Manchester will be reduced from 2 hr 8 min to 1hr 8min, whilst Birmingham to Leeds will be cut from 2hr to 57 min.
The government predicts a total cost of £32.7bn for the project, but believes that it will deliver economic benefits worth £47bn.
The Campaign for High Speed Rail argues on its website that the new lines will “make it easier for companies to network, recruit workers, find customers, specialise and become more productive”.
Other supporters highlight the important role that HS2 will play in redressing the current overcrowding problem on popular commuter routes. The government estimates that HS2 could transfer 4.5 million journeys a year from the air and 9 million from the road.
Critics have emphasised the environmental threat posed by the project. Destruction of countryside, increased carbon emissions and noise pollution are potential dangers stressed by a variety of pressure groups.
Campaign group Stop HS2 contend that the economic benefits have been grossly overestimated. Moreover, the group is concerned that any benefits will be primarily accrued by London.
The group claims that “three times as many passenger journeys will be towards London, not away from it, so redistribution will end up there”.
Passengers at Nottingham train station had mixed opinions.
David Stewart, a head teacher from Nottingham, emphasised the importance of high speed train travel, but was keen to point out the concomitant dangers posed by major rail construction.
“Although I think it is important to move forward, we need to strike a balance. The planned route may interfere with sites of scientific interest.”
He was also uncertain about how much Nottingham will gain from HS2.
“The Nottingham to London service is poor in my opinion. However, I don’t think HS2 will solve this problem, as passengers will need to travel to Toton from Nottingham to use HS2. There is no direct train link from Nottingham to Toton”.
From Toton, which lies 7 miles from Nottingham by road, passengers will be able to get to London in approximately 30 minutes.
Georgina Cousins, a student from London, was also sceptical.
“I’m happy with the service as it is. I don’t think the cost of HS2 justifies the benefits, especially in these recessionary times”.
Senior News Reporter