The high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London has been officially approved by Government, Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced today, and will proceed to the next legislative stages.

The first phase of HS2 should be completed with services ready to begin by 2026, with the second phase to Manchester and Leeds, forming a Y-shaped network, coming by 2033. The full project will has a projected capital cost of £32.7bn and deliver benefits of around £47bn, and fare revenues of up to £34bn over a 60-year period, the DfT calculates.

A second phase will then follow to Manchester and Leeds by approximately 2033, with a formal consultation on that phase beginning in 2014 and a final route chosen by the end of that year.

The project will cut journey times between London and Birmingham to 49 minutes and convey up to 26,000 people each hour at speeds of up to 250mph. Double-decker trains could be used on this line in the future, Greening has suggested.

The first phase includes connections to Europe via the Channel Tunnel, and a direct link to Heathrow will be constructed after the first phase is complete.

Trains will be up to 400m long, with 1,100 seats, and the network will take an estimated nine million journeys off the road network, as well as cutting up to 4.5 million air journeys each year.

In response to environmental concerns, the Government has announced extra tunnelling along 79 miles of the first phase. This will lead to improvements for those living near the route, it says, as fewer than five properties will now experience ‘high levels’ of noise. 60 properties will experience levels of noise high enough to qualify for statutory noise insulation, however.

The Department is writing to all those whose homes may be affected by the new line and has today also announced a new package of measures to help those affected by the scheme. These include the introduction of a streamlined purchase scheme, a sale and rent back scheme, a refreshed hardship scheme and a streamlined small claims scheme.

Greening said: “A new high speed rail network will provide Britain with the additional train seats, connections and speed to stay ahead of the congestion challenge and help create jobs, growth and prosperity for the entire country.

“HS2 will link some of our greatest cities – and high speed trains will connect with our existing railway lines to provide seamless journeys to destinations far beyond it. This is a truly British network that will serve far more than the cities directly on the line.

“By attracting passengers off existing rail lines, roads and domestic air services, its benefits will be felt far beyond the network. No amount of tinkering with our Victorian rail infrastructure will deliver this leap in capacity.

“It is not a decision that I have taken lightly or without great consideration of the impact on those who are affected by the route from London to Birmingham. I took more time to make this decision in order to find additional mitigation which now means more than half the entire 140-mile line will be out of sight in tunnels or cuttings. I am certain this strikes the right balance between the reasonable concerns of people living on or near the line, who will be offered a generous compensation package, and the need to keep Britain moving.

“HS2 is our generation’s investment in Britain and our children.”

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Author's Bio: 

Roy Rowlands writes for Rail Technology Magazine an independent technical trade journal for the UK rail industry offering a wide view of rail news views and opinions, he also writes for a rail jobs board reporting on the latest trends in rail recruitment