UK: The Department for Transport issued its preferred route options for the second phase of the planned High Speed 2 network on January 28.

This second phase builds on the 190 km first stage running from London Euston to Birmingham and a junction with the West Coast Main Line near Lichfield, for which a Hybrid Bill is being prepared for submission to parliament before the end of the year. The second phase takes the route north from Lichfield on an easterly branch towards Leeds and a western branch towards Manchester, adding a further 338 route-km. The selected route options will now be part of a broad consultation scheme which will start later this year.

The government confirmed that it expects the second phase to open in 2032, six years after Phase I, although Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has asked DfT to investigate whether this timescale could be accelerated.

Purpose-built high speed stations are envisaged at Manchester Airport, subject to the agreement of ‘a suitable funding package’; at an East Midlands Hub close to the DB Schenker depot at Toton, which would serve both Nottingham and Derby; and at Meadowhall on the eastern edge of Sheffield. The proposals also envisage new terminal stations at Manchester Piccadilly, adjacent to the existing station on land currently occupied by car parks and offices, and at Leeds New Lane, which would be sited to the south of Leeds’ existing station and potentially connected to it by a moving walkway.

In addition to a junction with the WCML at Lichfield, grade-separated junctions would be provided with the conventional network just south of Crewe, where trains towards Liverpool would diverge, and at Bamfurlong near Wigan. The Manchester spur would be reached via a triangular junction near Manchester Airport.

The eastern branch would run largely on a dedicated alignment as far as Church Fenton, just south of York, where services would continue onto the East Coast Main Line to serve northeast England and Edinburgh. The spur to Leeds would diverge at a junction near Woodlesford and follow the alignment of the existing Castleford – Leeds line. DfT confirmed also that the East Midlands Hub at Toton would be served by connecting passenger trains from both Derby and Nottingham, with journey times to each of less than 15 min. Interchange with light rail networks in Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester is envisaged at Toton, Meadowhall, Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly.

In a break from previous policy, work to develop a spur from the main HS2 route to London’s Heathrow Airport has been ‘deferred’ pending the publication of a government-commissioned report into the UK’s long-term aviation strategy.

The two phases of HS2 are priced at £33·1bn in total, of which around 65% is contingency, as required by Treasury guidelines on major project funding. According to DfT, the project is expected to deliver economic benefits of £2 for every £1 in capital expenditure, before external economic benefits are included.