The HS2 route will cover London to Leeds - as construction continues we take a look at the most recent updates to Britain's upcoming high-speed rail network


The first journeys on the £56bn HS2 project are due to begin in 2026

Since being green-lit in 2012, a number of updates to the HS2 route, construction plans and station locations have been announced.

Britain’s upcoming high-speed rail network, slated to be operational in initial areas by the end of 2026, promises to radically change the transportation system in the country.

As similar rail projects have done in other countries, it’s also expected to stimulate the economy through reducing commuter travel time, boosting regional connectivity and creating thousands of jobs.

Here is a breakdown of what the service will provide and the most recent updates concerning its progress.


What is HS2?

The UK’s second high-speed rail line is estimated to cost £56bn and will transport passengers at speeds of up to 250mph.

Two new fleets of trains will run the service – one solely for the HS2 network and another smaller fleet, which will also be compatible with existing train stations in Carlisle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Preston, Sheffield and York.

HS2 route map

While the first train journeys on the HS2 route are scheduled to begin in 2026, phase 2b – connecting Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds – will not be completed until 2033.

Obstacles to the project range from a potential lack of demand and the environmental damage involved with building another national rail line to the potential exacerbating of the North-South divide if HS2 encourages more people based in the regions to commute to the capital for work rather than take jobs in their home cities.

Yet the potential draw of a much shorter commute, as well as increased accessibility for the UK’s biggest city, remains.

It will serve more than 25 stations, connect eight of Britain’s ten largest cities and serve 30 million people – almost half the population.


HS2 journey times

London to:

Toton, East Midlands: 51mins (new station)

Nottingham: 1hr 8mins (currently 1hr 44mins)

Derby: 1hr 11mins (currently 1hr 31mins)

Sheffield Meadowhall: 1hr 9mins (new station)

Sheffield: 1hr 19mins (currently 2hrs 5mins)

Leeds: 1hr 23mins (currently 2hrs 12mins)

York: 1hr 24mins (currently 1hr 53mins)

Newcastle: 2hrs 19mins (currently 2hrs 52mins)

Crewe: 55mins (currently 1hr 30mins)

Manchester Airport: 1hr 3mins (currently 2hrs 24mins)

Manchester: 1hr 3mins (currently 2hrs 8mins)

Preston: 1hr 24mins (currently 2hrs 8mins)

Liverpool: 1hr 36mins (currently 2hr 8mins)

Glasgow: 3hrs 38mins (currently 4hrs 8mins)

Edinburgh: 3hrs 38mins (currently 4hrs 23mins)

Birmingham to:

Toton, East Midlands: 19mins (new station)

Nottingham: 36mins (currently 1hr 13mins)

Sheffield Meadowhall: 38mins (new station)

Sheffield: 48mins (currently 1hr 11mins)

Leeds: 57mins (currently 1hr 58mins)

York: 1hr 3mins (currently 2hrs 10mins)

Newcastle: 2hrs 7mins (currently 3hrs 14mins)

Manchester Airport: 32mins (currently 1hr 44mins)

Manchester: 41mins (currently 1hr 28mins)

Preston: 53mins (currently 1hr 31mins)

Liverpool: 1hr 36mins (currently 2hr 8mins)

Glasgow: 3hrs 22mins (currently 3hrs 57mins)

Edinburgh: 3hrs 14mins (currently 4hrs 1min)

Heathrow via Old Oak Common to:

Birmingham Interchange: 53mins (currently 2hrs 13mins)

Manchester Airport: 1hr 18mins (currently 3hrs 24mins)

Manchester: 1hr 23mins (currently 3hrs 8mins)

Toton, East Midlands: 1hr 6mins (new station)

Sheffield Meadowhall 1hr 25mins (new station)

Leeds: 1hr 38mins (3hrs 12mins)


Additional £1.8 million in funding to realise HS2 route in East Midlands

An extra £1.8m has been granted to fund the development of the new HS2 station at Toton, Nottinghamshire, it was announced yesterday (11 July).

The Toton station’s location means it can serve Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, delivering faster journeys for passengers and improved connections to cities such as Birmingham, Leeds and London.

The funding will also help develop public transport connections to Toton, making it easier for surrounding communities to access HS2.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “As the future backbone of our national rail network, HS2 is vital for delivering better connections between our major cities, bringing communities closer together with faster, more frequent services for passengers.

“It will also play a pivotal role in boosting productivity and prosperity across the country, with new and improved stations acting as catalysts for regeneration, jobs, new housing and economic growth.

“Committing additional funding to support the development of a HS2 station at Toton will help drive forward ambitious proposals, ensuring that the region stands ready to seize the enormous benefits of HS2.”

hs2 route
HS2 journey times to London (Credit: Department for Transport, November 2016)

Electrification of the Midland Main Line

In mid-2017, the Government announced that the preferred HS2 route will stretch into Sheffield via Chesterfield.

A 15-mile stretch of the existing railway line between Clay Cross, in Derbyshire, and Sheffield Midland Station – the new HS2 station for Sheffield – will be electrified.

Earlier this month, the Secretary of State Hon Sajid Javid confirmed this work would begin prior to work on phase two of the high-speed rail project, which begins in 2022.

HS2 Ltd, the Government body behind the project, will begin its preparatory works accordingly with a series of land surveys in order to identify how best to proceed.

An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: “The benefits that HS2 will deliver are significant and should not be underestimated.

“The new railway will play a crucial role in rebalancing Britain’s economy; driving business growth, creating jobs and securing investment right across the country.

“Ensuring the Midland Main Line is electrified between Clay Cross and Sheffield Midland Station will enable Chesterfield and the wider Sheffield city region to benefit from direct services on the new high-speed trains.”

However, the Government had performed a U-turn after previously pledging to electrify the entire Midland Main Line from Sheffield to London, which would have cut journey times ahead of HS2.


Rolling stock depot to be built in Leeds

On 4 July, the Government confirmed the new HS2 rolling stock depot – responsible for the servicing and maintenance of locomotives – will be built in Leeds, Yorkshire, creating up to 125 skilled jobs.

It will provide 24-hour maintenance of the brand new high-speed trains ensuring they are able to run on time and without incident.

hs2 route
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Constructing this vital depot in Leeds underlines how the benefits of HS2 drive prosperity right across the UK, with Yorkshire playing a crucial role in maintaining the new high-speed trains and delivering significantly better journeys for passengers.

“The depot will act as an economic catalyst, creating skilled jobs, boosting the local economy by unlocking regeneration opportunities and driving continued investment.

“This ensures Leeds will not only see immediate benefits when HS2 arrives but will see Yorkshire become a thriving hub for training the engineers that HS2 and future major projects will need.”