Work on second phase of HS2 line could start in Yorkshire and head south, says rail chief

Concept design of what the HS2 train could look like
Concept design of what the HS2 train could look like

The incoming boss of HS2 has said he will consider starting construction of the second part of the new high-speed rail line in Yorkshire and then heading southwards, as part of a revamped approach to bring forward the benefits for people in the North.

Sir David Higgins, the chief executive of Network Rail who will take over as head of HS2 Ltd in January, said he hopes to speed up the construction of the entire line, and “all options are open” for how the work will be done.

Northern MPs have long questioned why the Government committed to building the new railway line from the South upwards, which means there will be no real benefits to Yorkshire before its completion in 2033.

Appearing before the Commons Transport Committee, Sir David suggested the second part of the scheme, the ‘Y’ shape linking Birmingham to Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester, could yet be built from the top down.

“We should certainly look at it,” he said. “At the moment it’s driven by the legislative process.

“The current timetable has the Royal Assent for the second stage in 2020. That’s a long way from now... Surely we can make that quicker. If we can, all options are open.”

Sir David made clear he intends to “look closely” at how the benefits of HS2 can be brought forward, as the Government battles to shore up support for the flagship infrastructure scheme, which has been repeatedly criticised by MPs over recent months.

“I think if you’re in the North, you want to see the benefits earlier,” he said. “I don’t think people want to wait until 2032 or 2035 to see the benefit, and that is something I will look closely at.”