HS2 explained: What is it, where's it going, and how's the project doing?

What do we know about HS2 up to now?

HS2 stands for High Speed 2.

It is a planned railway line through the middle of the country, starting in London and heading to the north.

Credit: HS2
  • The trains will be much faster than the ones we have now, able to reach up to 250 mph.

  • They’ll run on new, dedicated tracks, and there could be up to 14 trains per hour in each direction.

It’s High Speed Two because there’s already a high speed line in the UK - linking London to the Channel Tunnel. The first high speed rail system was the bullet train in Japan.

Labour first introduced the idea of HS2 in 2009 and in January 2012 it was announced that HS2 would go ahead, and that it would be divided into two phases.

Credit: ITV News Central

Part 1 runs from Birmingham to London.

  • The Department for Transport says the project will cut the travel time from one hour 21 minutes to 52 minutes.

  • Trains were due to start running along the route in 2026, but that’s recently been delayed to between 2028-2031.

Part 2

  • At Birmingham, the line will split in half, with one half going to Leeds through the East Midlands and the other half to Manchester, in the shape of a Y.

  • Some details of this second part of the project still need to be approved by Parliament, but the latest estimate for that route being finished is 2035-2040.

The track will be 345 miles long, and the estimated cost to date has been £88bn, with suggestions now it could rise even more.

Credit: HS2

There have been lots of legal challenges to the project by those against the plans.


  • Concern about the effect on wildlife and the environment, as the line will go through lots of countryside

  • People are being forced to sell their homes to make way for it

  • Some landscapes will change forever

  • Worry about noise from the trains

  • Disruption during building work

  • The overall cost

  • The current system could be updated instead


  • Reducing the number of people using the ordinary railway, creating more space

  • Taking people off the roads

  • Joining up the country, which will boost the economy

  • Creating jobs as it’s built

  • Reducing journey times

Ticket prices to travel on HS2 haven’t yet been announced.