HS2: is it faster?

2nd Dec 2016


It will take longer to get from Wakefield to London using HS2 than it does today.


Today a journey from Leeds to London takes around two hours. Using HS2 and going via Leeds, the journey could be around 25 minutes faster, though this doesn’t account for the time taken to change trains and board HS2, and compares current train times with the fastest possible estimates for HS2.


HS2 will only take a few minutes off the current journey time.


Current government figures suggest that anything from 13 to 102 minutes could be taken off journey times from the north to London and Birmingham. This is comparing the current fastest times to the fastest times once HS2 is fully running in 2033.

Claim 1 of 2

“[HS2] is only going to save a few minutes off the journeys.”

Tim Stanley, 1 December 2016

“Guess what, it won't stop here, you can't get on the train here, we have to go to Leeds so it will take longer to get to London from Wakefield than it does today.”

BBC Question Time audience member, 1 December 2016

The government has produced an analysis of the estimated time it will take to get from “major economic centres” to either London Euston station or Birmingham Curzon Street when the planned HS2 rail network is built. The analysis says these estimates are based on the “fastest typical times” now and the fastest possible journey on HS2.

According to these figures, journey times to London Euston will reduce by up to 81 minutes (from Manchester Airport) or by just 13 minutes (from Derby).

To Birmingham Curzon Street the greatest reduction in journey time will be from Leeds, down 69 minutes, and the smallest reduction in time will be from Sheffield Midland, down just 15 minutes from current journey times.

There will be the same reduction in time between Leeds and Sheffield Midland (15 minutes) while journey times between Leeds and Birmingham Interchange will drop by 102 minutes.

Of course these are just estimates of the fastest possible times. Actual journeys might take longer. And not all of the cities included in the analysis will be directly on the HS2 line. The timings take into account the overall impact of HS2 on the rail network.

But what about journeys from Wakefield to London?

Currently it takes around two hours to get a train directly from Wakefield to Kings Cross station in London.

Assuming that a journey to London using HS2 also goes from Wakefield via Leeds the journey could be a bit faster, but that’s comparing current train times to the fastest possible times projected by the government.

According the government's most recent figures, when the second phase of HS2 is completed in 2033 the journey time from Leeds to London Euston station will have decreased from 131 minutes to 81 minutes, including a five-minute interchange at a new East Midlands hub.

Travelling from Wakefield to Leeds by train currently takes as little as 13 minutes (though it can take over 35 minutes), according to National Rail. This would suggest that a train journey from Wakefield to London using HS2 would take at least 94 minutes, although this doesn’t account for time taken to change trains in Leeds or changes in existing train times by 2033.

This fact check is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.