How journey times will be affected from Manchester and Birmingham as HS2 scrapped

Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the HS2 leg from Birmingham to Manchester will be scrapped after rumours about the line’s fate dominated the Tory party conference.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the decision meant that the Government was treating people in his city and the North as “second-class citizens.”

Mr Sunak will announce a package of transport measures, reported to be worth up to £30bn, including improving roads, buses and trains, in attempts to lessen the impact of the cuts.

HS2 was given a budget of £55.7bn in 2015 but costs have ballooned, with an estimate of up to £98bn – in 2019 prices – in 2020.

Last month it emerged that documents discussed during a meeting at No 10 suggested the £2.3bn already spent on the Birmingham to Manchester leg would no longer be recoverable if it were axed.

Here is how the plans have changed.

What were the original plans for HS2?

The original plans were split into three phases:

  • Phase 1: London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street, with intermediate stations at Old Oak Common in west London and at Birmingham Airport.
  • Phase 2a: Extending the line from Fradley in the West Midlands to Crewe in Cheshire.
  • Phase 2b: An eastern leg from the West Midlands to the East Midlands, and a western leg from Crewe to Manchester.

Under the new plan, HS2 will start at Euston. The route will stop in Manchester, but from Birmingham, it will change over to use the existing West Coast Mainline track.

How will journey times be affected?

Scrapping the northern leg of HS2 will mean some of the time savings on the route will be lost. Below are the time savings that were expected before the news that the northern section is being dropped:

  • London-Birmingham: On completion of Phase 1, journey times down from one hour 21 minutes to 52 minutes. Phase 1 is still going ahead.
  • Euston-Manchester: On completion of Phase 1, journey times down from two hours six minutes to one hour 41 minutes. On completion of Phase 2b, it would have gone down again to one hour 11 minutes.
  • Birmingham-Manchester: On completion of Phase 2b, journey times would have gone down from one hour 26 minutes to 41 minutes.

Where will the trains run now?

If the planned Handsacre Link in Lichfield, Staffordshire, goes ahead, HS2 trains will use it to connect between the new high-speed line and the existing West Coast Main Line.

That means they could serve stations such as Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. This had always planned to happen for a temporary period between the completion of Phases 1 and 2.

However, this plan could make inter-city connections much more difficult.

Also, HS2 was designed to relieve pressure on existing lines so that more local passenger services and freight trains could be run on these.

Fewer freight trains will also mean it will be more difficult to reduce carbon emissions and reach the net-zero goal.