/ Travel & Leisure

Are you for or against the HS2?

Britain’s second high-speed rail line gets the go-ahead and High Speed Two (affectionately known as ‘HS2’) will be created, at a cost of £32 billion. Will it run late and cost a bomb or improve journey times at great value?

Yes, £32 billion. It’s an astounding amount of money, roughly what the whole network gets in public funding for more than half a decade.

But when you consider that re-engineering the line it will run very close to – the West Coast Main Line – cost nearly £10 billion a few years ago perhaps it’s not that much. Or perhaps it will end up costing a whole lot more.

Do we need the HS2?

I’m torn. One the one side is my boyhood self, yearning for the speedy trains I saw abroad and knowing that we used to have them here too.

And on the other side is my 32-year old taxpaying-self, wincing at the cost. Yes, I know High Speed One was delivered to time and a very large budget. But passenger capacity through the Chunnel is only 50% of what it could be, and freight is only 10% according to RAIL magazine.

What will we get for the cash?

By 2026 there will be a faster line from London Euston to Birmingham with a link to High Speed One and so the Continent. Four stations will be built or rebuilt for the HS2: London Euston, Old Oak Common (west London), Birmingham Airport/Interchange and Birmingham Curzon Street.

By 2033 there will be a faster line to Manchester and Leeds too, and an extension to Heathrow. Journey times will be (with their existing times in brackets):

  • Birmingham to London – 45 minutes (1 hour 25)
  • Manchester to London – 1 hour 08 (2 hours 08)
  • Leeds to London – 1 hour 28 (2 hours 20)
  • Glasgow and Edinburgh to London – 3 hours 30 (4 hours 30)

Those with long memories will recall that we were supposed to have trains direct from regional British cities to the Continent years ago (the trains were even built). This never happened, but it is another bit of the HS2 promise:

  • Birmingham to Brussels or Paris – 3 hours (4 hours)
  • Leeds or Manchester to Brussels or Paris – 3 hours 30 (4 hours 30)

Who are HS2’s winners and losers?

Then there are, of course, the people directly affected. The new line is expected to generate 40,000 new jobs, but it will also demolish 400 homes and impact on many more.

Nearly 55,000 people responded to the Department for Transport consultation on the HS2, mainly members of the public, which shows the strength of feeling on the subject.

So is it all worth it? Will it boost the north by bringing it closer to the south, or boost the south at the expense of the north?

Are you for or against the HS2 (high-speed rail)?

For (56%, 297 Votes)

Against (33%, 174 Votes)

I'm ambivalent (12%, 63 Votes)

Total Voters: 537

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I am against, business is changing, web conferencing and virtual conferences will become the face of the future. Spending £30BN odd on a single line from London to Birmingham is absolutely pointless as the benefit is about 30 minutes less travelling.

Far better to improve the internet communications structure such that people can easily work from home for any company world-wide.

I have an ex-colleague who works in the UK during the day for a well known computer manufacturer in the USA and he does their UNIX maintenance whilst they are asleep.

Knowledge based jobs need to be encouraged by proving the necessary infrastructure.

Finally before this really does go ahead and contracts are awarded I would want to know how much a return ticket will be?


My understanding is that it cuts just 30 minutes London
– Birmingham not 40 minutes that you claim.

If from I hour 25 minutes to just 55 minutes, can’t
justify on cost grounds….to 45 minutes (?), a very hesitant
qualified support.

BTW China is on to their latest at 380 km per hour.
that they’ve already started building trains to run to this
spec, and using the same tracks that accommodated
the slightly slower 350 km per hour super express
already in service.


Hi Argonaut,

The time figures are the official government ones, although what the reality turns out to be remains to be seen of course.

One worry I have is connecting in Birmingham – having Curzon Street, New Street, Moor Street and Snow Hill smacks of the Victorian age to me. For all their strengths (getting lots of train lines built quickly and often cheaply), the Victorian way of doing it didn’t exactly major on co-ordination and planning. Hope that moving walkway between Curzon St and New St is built and moves quickly!

And totally see the point about this line not being very high speed anyway. Although the energy needed to push trains along at very high speed is so much more, even more proportionally, than at lower high speed.


A clarification to what has been commented.

London-Birmingham phase £17 billion, to Manchester
AND Leeds, a further 15 billion or so in my


Yup… cost of fares is a very relevant consideration.

Reported just days ago a ‘super express’ scheme in
operation in the Netherlands is running at a loss as
passengers deserted in large numbers on account
of much higher fares.

Check out the story at the Telegraph.

Sophie Gilbert says:
12 January 2012

A few questions. What is the point in being against it if it is actually going ahead? If it isn’t going to get built, will it only be delaying the inevitable? Why can it not both boost the north by bringing it closer to the south and boost the south full stop without it being necessarily at the expense of the north?


I am very much against this development. Rather than spending this obscene amount of money on transport we should be investing in helping people and companies live and work in a way that has less impact on the environment. Quite apart from the development costs, has anyone given any thought to the costs of running trains at very high speeds.


Agree on reducing the impact. This project will never make a profit.


Unless successfully challenged by way of judicial
review, it would seem the scheme shall proceed
….. fast train technology has been around a very long time
with the advent of the Japanese bullet train as long
ago as 1964 doing then 186 mph, AND have maglev
and possibly one other advanced technology been
considered as an alternative?

The USA have never taken AND shall not take to very/high
speed rail and for good reason as presumably there is not
a NEED bearing in mind passenger expectations, environmental
concerns/damage, the cost of running it and not least, anticipated
revenue returns…. like I said, the super rail facility in the
Netherlands in use is running at a loss.

We don’t need a ‘Concorde’ of the rails where only the
rich or well-off can afford… nice thing to have but not really
that necessary for probably the majority of rail users and
others who have a need for travel or stay in touch.