Plans are in the pipeline for a new high-speed railway in the UK – where trains can travel at up to 225 mph. The High Speed 2 project, known as HS2, is seen as the future of rail travel, with a service that is set to serve London, Manchester, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Crewe, Leeds, Manchester airport and Birmingham airport.
More of us than ever are using Britain’s railways, with demand for rail travel doubling in the past 20 years – passenger numbers continue to grow. The national rail network consists of a mixture of fast, slow, non-stop and stopping trains, so we’re not getting the most out of the infrastructure.
Today’s rail problems
Many different trains are competing for a limited amount of space, leading to trains running late, overcrowded carriages and unreliability. The current network has been continually upgraded over the past ten years, but as demand increases, the problems are persisting. Even upgraded sections of the network are beginning to struggle again, with some already reaching capacity.
The new HS2 infrastructure is aimed at being a game-changer for Britain’s overstretched rail network. It will free up a large amount of space on the existing rail system. High-speed trains will have their own specific tracks. HS2 will enable the rail operators to provide more rush-hour trains and will also offer the flexibility to meet even greater passenger demands in the future. It will relieve the pressure on existing bottlenecks at larger stations and where branch lines meet on long-distance routes.
Creating more space for more trains is expected to take thousands of lorries off Britain’s overcrowded roads, as more freight can move to rail transportation instead. This will make our crowded motorways safer, help to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.
In 2017, Parliament approved plans for the first section and clearance work has begun for the tracks and stations. In total, the new tracks will link 21 stations. The current high-speed trains have a top speed of 200 mph. New, dedicated high-speed trains will feature wider cars, and they will travel faster.
A second fleet of trains (known as “classic compatible”) will be designed to run on both the new high-speed tracks and the classic tracks. The HS2 line is scheduled to open in phases, starting in 2026. It should be completed by 2033.
The project is being developed by private company, High-Speed Two Ltd., at an estimated cost of £56 billion. Sources of funding have included central government, the European Union’s Connecting Europe initiative and other sources. It was reported that the city of Liverpool had offered £6 billion to build a link to the nearest HS2 line 20 miles away.
A new high-speed link will also be added to the existing West Coast Main Line, north of Lichfield, in Staffordshire. This will provide a link to north-west England and Scotland, ahead of the later phases.
Work on the new rail system is supporting 9,000 jobs around Britain, with work well underway on 250 sites across the country already. At peak construction, more than 30,000 jobs will be supported by HS2, including 2,000 new apprenticeships.
More than 320 apprentices are currently on board with the project, and over 2,000 firms have contracts with HS2 – 98% of them are British.
Lincolnshire-based business Crowder’s Nurseries has a contract with HS2 to supply seven million trees and shrubs, which will be planted on more than 650 hectares of new woodland being created between London and Birmingham on HS2’s phase one route.
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