Britain Shifts High Speed Rail Route

Facing trouble in its own ranks in Parliament, Britain’s coalition government is tweaking the plan for a new high-speed rail line that would link London – and, by extension, Europe – to England’s Midlands. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond offered a revised route for High Speed 2 (HS2) that differs from the one left behind by the previous government for 65 out of its 127 miles. It would, he said in a statement, mitigate impact on homes and the countryside.

HS2 is designed to go from central London to a new Birmingham City Centre in its first phase. In London it would link with the existing Heathrow airport express line, and a new connection would be built to tie HS2 to the Eurostar service through the Channel Tunnel on High Speed One (HS1). A second phase of construction would split HS2 at Birmingham to form a Y shape as it heads north to Manchester and Leeds.

United Kingdom, High Speed Two, rail line, London to Birmingham

image via Wikimedia Commons

Traveling at speeds over 200 mph, the high speed rail line would bring the West Midlands within about a half hour of London and would allow journey times of around 80 minutes from Leeds and Manchester to the capital, Hammond said.

All well and good, except according to the BBC, “A number of Conservative MPs have expressed concerns about the rail link, which passes through Tory heartlands.” In announcing the revised route Hammond said HS2 would “transform the way Britain works and competes in the 21st century,” but acknowledged there would be “less welcome impacts … in some parts of the countryside.”

Key changes in his attempt to quell the opposition included moving the line away from several villages, as well as incorporating “green” bridges and tunnels that would “reduce its visual impact and avoid severance of public rights of way.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply January 1, 2011


    Phil hammond has change dteh route – Hogwash !! This is all spin to make it look like he has capitulated. Go to the website and look at the detailed map comparison and you will se ethat HS2 is going to reap just as much destruction on virgin countryside as before.

    Phil Hammond – you have lost my vote and many thousands of others with it. You will be a one term government.

    • Reply January 1, 2011


      Agree, its tosh that there are 50% changes, in places its just by a metre.
      They’re about to lose my vote and lots of others too unless they scrap this white elephant scheme.

  • Reply January 2, 2011


    The words spin and greenwash come to mind. What is a “green bridge”? Where are these “key changes”?

  • Reply January 2, 2011


    The way Mr hammond puts it there will be nothing going on, it will not be seen or heard .Who is he kidding, and what of the years of disruption to humans and wildlife.Mr hammond will not answer questions and be open as I believed the mps would be, after all the problems with expenses etc.With huge rail price rises only the wealthy will be able to afford to travel on this first class white elephant.

  • Reply January 3, 2011

    Nicholas Taylor

    Looking at an ITN/Mail video of a protest against HS2, I note that the protesters are all pressed onto the footways so the tarmac road is left open for cars. Had they been allowed to protest a century ago, they might have been protesting against being driven from the common highway by the rich in their carriages. They are prepared to put up with that now because in order to continue living in nice rural villages they all rely on cars and a steady supply of petroleum, with all that that implies. At base, it is the level of dependence on transport that needs scrutiny, and if that is a problem it won’t be addressed by leaving things as they are.

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