The UK Department for Transport has unveiled its proposed routes for the second stage of the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line, which will eventually link London with key cities in the north of England.
Plans for the first phase of the development, which will take the line as far as Birmingham, have been in place for some time, but the new details will provide certainty of the route beyond this, which will consist of two main forks taking the service to Manchester and Leeds.
When completed, the project will see the number of mainline intercity and commuter trains coming into and out of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds almost double to 48 per hour, while the total number of seats available on intercity services will treble to almost 15,000 per hour.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the plans will help deliver a major boost to the country’s future economic prosperity and show that the UK remains open for business.
He said: “The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day.”
Mr Grayling added the scheme represents the “greatest upgrade to our railway in living memory”. It is expected that the construction process will directly create some 25,000 jobs as well as 2,000 apprenticeships, while the wider economic benefits will contribute the equivalent of around 100,000 new jobs.
While the majority of the route has now been finalised, a decision on whether to route the eastern section of the track through the centre of Sheffield, or to a new station outside the city, has yet to be confirmed.
Building work on the first phase of HS2, between London and Birmingham, is scheduled to begin next year. Phase 2a, between the West Midlands and Crewe will open in 2027, while the remaining Phase 2b sections to Manchester and Leeds will be complete by 2033.