HS2 is a proposed infrastructure project to build a high-speed rail line from London to Manchester and Leeds, via Birmingham, to begin operation in 2026 and be completed in 2033. It was supported by the Labour Government after 2009 and has had the support of the Conservatives in government since May 2010.

HS2 is planned to be delivered in three phases:

  • Phase 1 from London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street and Lichfield with intermediate stations in West London (at old Oak Common) and at Birmingham Airport;
  • Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe; and
  • Phase 2b comprising an eastern leg from the West Midlands to Leeds New Lane with intermediate stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire; and a western leg from Crewe to Manchester with an intermediate station at Manchester Airport.

In total, the Government has estimated that the scheme will cost £55.7 billion in 2015 prices (including rolling stock).

Despite enjoying widespread support across all parties in Parliament the scheme remains controversial outside, with disagreements regarding the economic and environmental cases for the scheme. Many of those who will be directly affected by the construction of the route are concerned for the future. The scheme has passionate supporters and opponents who, for the past seven or eight years, have argued across a variety of fora, including Parliament, as to whether the scheme would deliver enough in the way of benefits to justify the price tag. These debates continue.

This paper deals with Phase 2b of the HS2 scheme from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds via Sheffield. In July 2017 the Government issued a consultation on the eastern leg rolling stock depot and announced decisions on route refinements for Phase 2b. The Bill for this part of the route is expected before the end of 2020.

This paper also looks at Northern Powerhouse Rail, which is planned to integrate with HS2 in the North of England, and the progress of high speed rail to and within Scotland.

Information on Phase 1 and Phase 2a of HS2 can be found in HC Library briefing papers CBP 316 and CBP 7082, respectively. General background information on the HS2 scheme can be found in RP11/75.

Maps showing the Parliamentary constituencies through which HS2 runs can be found attached to the landing page for this paper.

Further briefings are available on the Railways Topical Page of the Parliament website.


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  • This paper provides an overview of the current rail system, including how it is delivered and how it performed and was financed up until the spring of 2020 when the UK locked down in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. It explains the impact of the pandemic on services and funding and sets out reforms to rail passenger services (franchises) as a result of the pandemic. The final section discusses the Williams Rail Review, initiated in 2018 and yet to report publicly, setting out the emerging conclusions and key questions to be answered.