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What is HS2 and will it go ahead?

What is HS2 and will it go ahead?

High Speed 2 (HS2) is a planned project to construct a new high-speed rail network linking London, the West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester.

However, the deputy chair of a panel reviewing the project has said there is "overwhelming evidence" that the costs of HS2 are "out of control".

Labour peer and vocal critic of HS2, Lord Berkeley has said that he believes MPs were 'misled' about the price of the high-speed rail line linking London and Northern England. In 2015, the price was believed to be £55bn, however, the cost is now likely to be over £108bn, according to Lord Berkeley. 

The HS2 network is designed to take hundreds of thousands of vehicles off the UK's roads every year and subsequently reduce carbon emissions. According to the HS2 website, once the new rail network is operating, services on existing lines will be able to run much closer together and will be less crowded, leading to improvements for travellers. The high-speed rail link is also meant to cut travel times for commuters - it is estimated that a train from Manchester to London on HS2 would take 67 minutes, in comparison to 127 minutes on the current network.

Trains are due to start running on HS2 between London and Birmingham in 2029, however it is thought that the timescale could be delayed. 

Increasing costs led the government to launch a review of the high-speed rail network last August, but the government says it is still committed to building HS2. A spokesman for the Department for Transport said:

"The government commissioned the Oakervee review to provide advice on how and whether to proceed with HS2, with an independent panel representing a range of viewpoints... Lord Berkeley's report represents his personal view."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the government is currently still committed to the project, speaking on Sky's Ridge on Sunday programme.

The project, which originally begun under the Labour government in 2009, has sparked multiple controversies, not just in relation to its costs. In 2019, a Freedom of Information request revealed that more than £1.25bn had been spent buying properties in London to make way for HS2. Groups including 'Stop HS2' have also protested about the potential environmental impact in creating the new rail network, including the cutting down of large amounts of trees.

HS2 Ltd, the company responsible for building the new line has said that there is a strong economic case for the new rail network.

Photo Credit: Steve Batch UK via Flickr under licence (CC BY 2.0)

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