Election 2019

General election 2019: Your questions on HS2 answered

Computer-generated image of HS2 Image copyright HS2
Image caption HS2 is designed to connect London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds

The future of HS2 is a key election issue for some voters who asked us which parties would scrap the high-speed rail network and which would save it.

Some of our readers got in touch using Your Questions Answered to tell us what they thought about HS2 and ask what each party pledged to do with the project.

Image copyright Andrew Welsh
Image caption Andrew Welsh thinks HS2 could boost business investment in the West Midlands

Andrew Welsh owns a recruitment company in Birmingham and believes the faster trains from London to the West Midlands, Manchester and Leeds could boost business.

"I'd like to know what they plan to do with HS2 and if they decide to scrap it, what will the money be spent on instead?"

Mr Welsh, who recruits for the scientific and medical devices industry, said he found new start-up companies in those sectors focused on London, Cambridge or Oxford.

"I'm proud of the redevelopment of Birmingham over the last 15 years and would like to see it continue," he said.

"So apart from my own business, I think HS2 could result in more business investment into Birmingham and the whole of the West Midlands."

Reader Val Fare thinks the billions of pounds spent on HS2 would be better spent on upgrading existing rail networks from the Midlands to the North and from West to East.

The 74-year-old moved from London to Worcestershire 19 years ago when her husband retired.

"It was then that we discovered how London-centric our transport systems are - both road and rail," she said.

"The quickest way to travel from Worcestershire to East Anglia means going to London via the M4 then the M25 and then the M-whatever to East Anglia. By train it's the same," said Mrs Fare.

"It is ridiculous - if you look at the road and rail patterns in the UK they all converge on London like some warped lopsided spider's web."

Image copyright Stephen Leary
Image caption Stephen Leary supports anti-HS2 groups

Stephen Leary, 72, from Measham in Leicestershire, supports anti-HS2 groups. He got in touch to say: "There are a number of reasons why the HS2 issue needs a more public airing before this election takes place."

These included the long term cost to the tax payer, the destruction of ancient woodlands and the claim that HS2 would help to rebalance the economy, he said.

"Most independent assessments have London benefiting by far, so it will increase the degree of regional inequalities," he said.

"And the fact that to make it work, we will have to use it for longer distance travel as it's planned to stop most of the existing 125 services on the rail system which HS2 duplicates."

What stage is HS2 at?

Image copyright Siemens/PA
Image caption Some trains would be 400m (1,300ft) long with as many as 1,100 seats

The first phase of the line between London and Birmingham faces delays of up to five years.

That section was due to open at the end of 2026, but it could now be between 2028 and 2031 before the first trains run on the route.

The second phase - from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds - was due to open in 2032-33, but that has been pushed back to 2035-2040.

HS2's total cost has also risen from £62bn to between £81bn and £88bn.

In August 2019, the government launched a review into whether to scrap HS2.

This will be published after the election but a draft copy says it should go ahead.

What would each party do about HS2?

The Conservative Party calls HS2 a "great ambition" but says it will consider the findings of the review before making a decision.

The Labour manifesto says the party is committed to "completing the full HS2 route to Scotland, taking full account of the environmental impacts of different route options".

The Liberal Democrats say they support HS2 and pledge to "ensure that HS2 opens as early as possible to meet our decarbonisation goals while minimising the destruction of precious UK habitats and woodland".

The Brexit Party wants to cancel HS2 and "invest at least £50bn in local road and rail schemes in our development-starved regions".

Plaid Cymru says scrapping the project "would not only avoid the destruction of important habitats, it would also allow us to instead invest public transport infrastructure more fairly across the UK".

The Green Party says the funds freed up will be spent on more effective sustainable public transport options.

The SNP don't mention the rail link in their manifesto.

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