On a recent online event for the Policy Exchange Thinktank, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps re-confirmed the Government’s commitment to not just complete the western leg linking Manchester with Birmingham, but also the Eastern leg linking Birmingham with Leeds. He revealed: “We will be completing HS2, including the HS2 Eastern Leg to Leeds. The only question we have now is how to integrate this with plans drawn up over many years, relating to Northern Powerhouse Rail plans.” The Transport Secretary also revealed the schedule for the works could be completed early due to smarter construction methods.
Stage 1 of HS2 linking London with Birmingham and onwards to Crewe is due to be completed 2028 – 2031. Stage 2 will involve the Western Leg being extended from Crewe to both Wigan and Manchester. At the same time the Eastern Leg will be constructed linking Leeds with Birmingham, via a new East Midlands hub.
As well as the recent confirmation on both Western and Eastern Legs of the project, last month saw the unveiling of the largest tunnelling machine ever constructed for a UK project. Named after Florence Nightingale, ‘Florence’ has started work tunnelling through chalk under the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire. The machine will operate 24/7 for the next three and a half years.