By Annisa Essack
The British Government is embarking on the most significant transport infrastructure project in the UK since the building of the motorways. High Speed 2 is the new national high-speed rail network that is also a deeply controversial plan by the Government to construct a new high-speed rail network linking London, the West Midlands, Leeds, and Manchester.
HS2's inception follows the development of HS1, the high-speed line between London and Kent connecting the UK to routes on the European continent.
The cost of HS2 - over £42 billion for the track and £8 billion for the rolling stock - means it is arguably the most expensive single project ever attempted by a British government in peacetime. It dwarfs other programs such as the current aircraft carrier program, NHS Connecting for Health IT Program and the Millennium Dome.
The project has been beset by delays and rising costs with the latest estimates putting the price tag at more than £100bn.
The returns compared to the unprecedented expenditure are meagre – increased economic activity in the capital at the expense of the rest of the country, few job opportunities, and irreversible environmental damage. A broad coalition from across the political divide has emerged to oppose the proposals since they were announced in 2010.
According to the project's most recent official forecast, it could be 2040 before passenger services are operating on the full network.