Johnson commits to HS2?

England will be getting more trains after all

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Will HS2 now go ahead as planned?

By Joe Harker

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that HS2, the high speed rail project designed to connect London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, will indeed go ahead.

The announcement comes despite soaring cost projections and delays, with opposition to HS2 growing in some places.

It will be years until the HS2 trains start to run so it's not impossible that the state of the project could change. Is the debate over?

The Claim:

Well, the prime minister has said it's going to happen and according to the Daily Mail's Henry Deedes approached it with the enthusiasm of "a market trader flogging suspect bottles of Chanel No 5".

The prime minister certainly knows some parts of his own party and his voting base really don't want HS2, so he's having to ramp up the salesman patter and make it clear he's fully committed to the project.

Johnson is safely ensconced within Downing Street and his approval of HS2 means the next few years will see it continue onwards, perhaps to a point where the billions already spent makes successive governments decide it's too costly to cancel.

The message from the prime minister is that HS2 is going to be this fantastic enterprise which all the doubters should get on board with. It helps that it tallies with Johnson's clear desire to have great works be built during his time in office.

While his suggestion for a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland is just utterly terrible the UK's rail network is in dire need of an upgrade and HS2 will help do that.

The Counter Claim:

HS2's strongest supporters tend to be around the cities which will be better linked by the new rail line, while the strongest opposition is often in areas where the project will run through but not serve.

Areas where the route will run through are not happy at the years of construction work they will have to endure, while some people have been told they will need to leave their homes because the line is going to go right through.

The Economist notes that a "macho enthusiasm" for the trains to run faster than they do on France's high speed rail network means it will have to go in primarily straight lines and cannot move around obstacles very much.

Cost projections for HS2 started at around £42 billion a decade ago and are now around £88 billion but could spike even higher to £106 billion. Perhaps in years to come the cost projections might be revised upwards even further.

Opposition to HS2 is not going away. Some people won't be convinced until the trains are actually running many years later and more might never think it's a good idea.

The Facts:

The first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham will be completed between 2028 and 2031, while the second phase running to Manchester and Leeds will be done between 2035 and 2040.

Capacity is the real benefit of HS2, not speed. Not that you'd know that when the HS stands for high speed. The UK has made almost no increases in its rail infrastructure for decades, with many miles of track destroyed after the Beeching Report.

Part of the problem is the lack of track space, meaning faster trains and slower commuter trains run on the same rails.

This means there aren't as many trains running as there perhaps could be, as more frequent trains would result in crashes as the overcrowded rails struggle to balance locomotives of varying speed all running down the same line at the same time.

HS2 will add new tracks and more frequent trains, meaning those who are journeying between England's major cities will be able to use it instead of the current trains.

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