HS2 is a propsed high-speed railway in the UK designed to link a total of 21 destinations throughout the UK, including eight major cities. The purpose of this ambitious project is not only to offer more rail connections between these destinations, but also to reduce travel times. The first phase, which is set to connect London with Birmingham, was approved in 2017 and should open to the public sometime in 2028. All phase one services should be up and running by 2031. Then there are two more phases, 2A and 2B. Phase 2A will connect Birmingham to Crewe, with services scheduled to start in 2027. Phase 2B will expand the service from Crewe to Manchester and from Birmingham to Leeds, with openings starting in 2033. It’s expected that all of Phase 2 will be completed by 2035. Further phases should extend the network all the way up to Scotland. Even though Phase 1 has been approved, there has been a lot of backlash.
Yes – It’s too costly
One of the main arguments against HS2 is that it’s too expensive. When it was first announced, the entire project, including all proposed routes, was given a budget of £30 billion. That budget has since risen to £56 billion, though it’s been reported that this increased budget may have to rise yet again to meet the excessive costs involved in the project. Many believe that instead of spending exorbitant amounts of money on this project, the government should instead focus on improving the country’s existing railway infrastructure. Many services, especially in and around London, are routinely criticised for delays, strikes and ticket price increases. No fare prices for HS2 have been announced, though there’s speculation that it could end up being just as expensive, if not more so, than current train services, which are already among the most expensive in Europe. Other points made against HS2 include the environmental impact of its construction and the fact that the demand for it may not be as great as expected.
No – It has lots of advantages
The construction process alone for the various phases of the HS2 network will generate loads of jobs. There will be many jobs created once the different sections of the network start opening up for public use as well. HS2 will offer significantly faster train travel. For example, it’s designed to take one hour less to travel between London and Birmingham than the current standard service. It should lessen the burden on existing railway services and infrastructure, especially since it promises to offer faster travel. It may even help reduce city traffic and short-haul domestic flights (thereby helping to reduce people’s carbon footprint) by encouraging more people to travel by train. Furthermore, the environmental impact of the construction process is set to be mitigated by the planting of trees and the installation of ‘green’ tunnels designed to be environmentally friendly and compensate for the disruption to the landscape.
While Phase 1 is under construction, the overall HS2 project is under government review. This review is intended to see if any costs can be cut and if any advantageous changes can be made. Boris Johnson has insisted he’s not going to scrap the project, affirming that he’s entirely for major infrastruture developments. However, it’s very likely that the cost of it will increase again and again as time goes by, especially since it will be many years before the whole thing’s complete. HS2 has certainly divided public opinion, though it seems that despite the opposition, it’s going to go ahead whether people like it or not.