What Is Actually Going On With HS2?

Dean Burton
Missed opening deadlines, increasing costs and concerns from environmental groups and locals. High Speed 2 has had its challenges, so what stage is the UK’s huge railway project at now and where is it headed?
Artists impression of an HS2 train. Photo: HS2

HS2 (High Speed 2) is the UK’s ambitious infrastructure project aimed at building a new high-speed railway line connecting London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. 

The UK’s biggest-ever public investment into its railway system promises to improve the country’s rail network and reduce journey times between major cities.

The Government strives for a more united Britain and to create more employment opportunities for people in the country living outside of the capital. But in reality, the project has faced criticism and controversy over its cost, environmental impact, and potential disruption to communities, as well as falling behind its planned opening dates.

So, what’s happening with HS2 now and what does the future look like for this huge project? 

Construction Progress And Updates

Construction Of HS2. Photo: Guilherme Cunha | Unsplash

Construction of the HS2 project is currently underway, with various stages of work taking place across different parts of the UK. According to the HS2 website, significant progress has been made in the construction of the project, including the construction of bridges, tunnels, and other infrastructure but the project has fallen short of reaching its initial opening dates. 

The first phase, linking London to Birmingham, was due to open at the end of 2026. This is now expected between 2029 and 2033, with the second phase being pushed back to 2035-2040, initially due to open in 2032-33. 

Aside from its deadlines being pushed back, the project has received further criticism related to the budget. 

The BBC reports the estimated cost for HS2 has massively increased since 2015. The Initial estimate (at 2015 prices) was £55.7bn, and that’s now more than doubled. 

Controversy And Criticisms Surrounding The HS2 Project

Concerns Around HS2. Photo: Dylan Hayward | Unsplash

The project has focused on taking steps to mitigate its environmental impact, including planting new trees to replace those lost during construction and it claims to eventually offer the UK zero carbon travel.

“All our trains will be powered by zero-carbon energy from day one of the services. For us, that means becoming net zero from 2035. For you, it means enjoying zero carbon high-speed travel.” 

However, the grassroots campaigning organization, Stop HS2, isn’t convinced and they have big concerns about the project’s environmental impact. 

The group led a petition to halt work, which the Government debated in parliament in September 2021, and “firmly concluded” that it would continue plans. 

“HS2 will transform our country’s transport network, and help to rebalance opportunity fairly across the country. This railway is a long-term investment that will bring our biggest cities closer together, boost productivity, and provide a low-carbon alternative to cars and planes for many decades to come. During construction, we want HS2 to be the most environmentally responsible major infrastructure project in UK history.” – UK Government in response to a petition led by Stop HS2.  

The project has established community engagement programs and compensation schemes to address the concerns of those impacted by the project but despite these efforts, HS2 continues to face criticism and opposition from people and organizations who argue that the project is too expensive and will cause significant disruption to local communities.

Regardless of public criticism, it seems the project remains a significant part of the UK’s infrastructure plans, and its construction progress and updates will continue to be closely monitored.

If you want to learn more about what’s happening behind the scenes, you can listen to a 12-part podcast series that explores the story behind the construction of HS2.



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