The Anonymous Widower

Anxiety Over HS2 Eastern Leg Future

I did think about giving this post a title of Here We Go Again, as it yet another story about delaying or cancelling the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two.

But in the end I decided to use the title of the article in the September 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

I wrote about this subject in Is The Eastern Leg Of High Speed Two Under Threat? in December 2020.

In that post, this was my major conclusion.

To achieve the required timings for High Speed Two, major improvements must be made to existing track on the East Coast Main Line and these improvements will mean that existing services will be competitive with High Speed Two on time.

It is backed up by the timings in the following table., which show the direct time by High Speed Two and my best estimate of time on an improved East Coast Main Line.

  • Bradford – Will not served by High Speed Two – One hour and fifty-four minutes
  • Cleethorpes – Will not served by High Speed Two – Two hours and fifty-one minutes
  • Darlington – One hour and forty-nine minutes – One hour and forty-nine minutes
  • Doncaster – Will not served by High Speed Two – One hour
  • Edinburgh – Three hours and forty minutes via Western Leg – Three hours and thirty minutes.
  • Grimsby – Will not served by High Speed Two – Two hours and thirty-six minutes
  • Harrogate – Will not served by High Speed Two – One hour and fifty-two minutes
  • Huddersfield – Will not served by High Speed Two – Two hours and eight minutes
  • Hull – Will not served by High Speed Two – One hour and fifty minutes
  • Leeds – One hour and twenty-one minutes – One hour and thirty minutes
  • Lincoln – Will not served by High Speed Two – One hour and fifty-one minutes
  • Middlesbrough – Will not served by High Speed Two – Two hours and twenty minutes
  • Newcastle – Two hours and seventeen minutes – Two hours and sixteen minutes
  • Nottingham – One hour and seven minutes – One hour and fifty minutes
  • Scarborough – Will not served by High Speed Two – Two hours and fifty-seven minutes
  • Sheffield – One hour and twenty-seven minutes – One hour and twenty-seven minutes
  • Skipton – Will not served by High Speed Two – Two hours and seven minutes
  • Sunderland – Will not served by High Speed Two – Two hours and thirty minutes
  • York – One hour and twenty-four minutes – One hour and twenty-four minutes


  1. I have included all destinations served by Grand Central, Hull Trains and LNER.
  2. I have included Nottingham and Sheffield for completeness and in case whilst electrification is installed on the Midland Main Line, LNER run services to the two cities.
  3. I suspect LNER services to Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield and Skipton will split and join at Leeds.

There are a total of nineteen destination in this table.

  • Twelve are not served by High Speed Two.
  • Six are not more than fifteen minutes slower by the East Coast Main Line.

Only Nottingham is substantially quicker by High Speed Two.

In Is The Eastern Leg Of High Speed Two Under Threat?, I said that if Nottingham services ran at the sort of speed on the East Coast Main Line, that a time of one hour and twenty-one minutes between London St. Pancras and Nottingham could be possible. That would be just fourteen minutes slower than the time on High Speed Two with a change at East Midlands Hub.


I am getting more convinced that we don’t need the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two to East Midlands Hub and Leeds for a few years yet, as by uprating the East Coast and Midland Main Lines we can handle the traffic that we currently are generating with ease.

August 23, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , ,


  1. The leak is genuine. All papers are running it, including the qualities, and engineering press.

    It is no coincidence that the TBMs have started in the south getting a fast route out of London. If all of HS2 is canned (London-Birmingham is amber/red rated ‘unachievable’) the Chiltern tunnels can be used to branch onto an uprated Chiltern. This will take the Birmingham trains off the WCML alleviating any future capacity problems on the WCML. More commuter trains into London from Aylesbury and Milton Keynes are also possible. Trains to Birmingham will at least match HS2 times as the Chiltern is a direct route.

    So HS2 may end up being a big fast long tunnel out of London to Birmingham, being a new southern section of the Chiltern, terminating somewhere around Aylesbury. That seems likely to me.

    Comment by John | August 24, 2021 | Reply

  2. AW, is that time you have listed for London to Doncaster (one hour) correct?

    I agree with you that the ‘eastern leg’ (given the current planned) routing, in terms of times, makes no substantive difference in comparable journey times, if all the upgrades to existing lines are made, but what implications are there in terms of capacity

    Comment by PJS | August 24, 2021 | Reply

    • I’m fairly certain an hour or somewhere near it, is possible, when full digital signalling is installed South of Doncaster.

      One benefit of digital signalling is that it will sort Newark and Digswell Viaduct and with time savings from the Kings Cross throat and Werrington, there will be substantial savings, as the average speed is only 93 mph and 140 mph running will be possible on much of the route.

      There will also be time savings between Doncaster and York.

      The Eastern Leg of HS2 would be built, when more capacity is needed.

      When you consider that Edinburgh and London was done in just under three and a half hours in a shortened InterCity 225 in 1991 and these trains have done 160 mph on the ECML, there is a lot of slack to be taken out of the times.

      I can see some of the Azumas changed for HS2 Classic-Compatible trains and 160 mph running on parts of the ECML before this decade is out.

      We will get another high speed line by stealth and the careful application of good proven engineering to straighten tracks, sort junctions and introduce faster trains.

      Comment by AnonW | August 24, 2021 | Reply

  3. If the eastern leg is dropped, which appears near certain, how will this affect services on the western leg to Manchester (that has not been heavily hinted to be dropped yet), as there will be more capacity?

    Liverpool to Birmingham was bumped off HS2. Will Liverpool reach Birmingham on HS2?

    Chester to London was bumped off HS2, would this service now run on HS2?

    Comment by John | August 24, 2021 | Reply

  4. As there is only about 10 minutes difference between London-Edinburgh on the ECML and HS2 (western), will Edinburgh be moved to the ECML to release capacity on the western leg?

    The cancelling of the eastern leg brings in many service opportunities on HS2 western.

    Comment by John | August 24, 2021 | Reply

  5. IIt would be an idea. It would effectively allow trains on the Western Leg to serve more places including Leeds and Hull in an extension from Manchester.

    Edinburgh and Glasgow are not far apart and the problem is that passengers arriving in Glasgow and wanting to go to Edinburgh have a dreadful connection between the two stations. I will build some form of underground people mover between the two stations.

    Get it right and passengers could go to either Edinburgh or Glasgow and then perhaps fifty minutes later be in the other or anywhere in the Central Belt.

    Comment by AnonW | August 24, 2021 | Reply

    • Leeds will not go to London via Manchester. Quicker via the east. Leeds to access Birmingham is quicker via Manechster. But it it worth spending billions building ph.2a western leg just for that?

      Glasgow and Edinburgh are not near to each other to link the stations.

      North Wales & Chester could use HS2 if it ever get to Crewe, as there could be enough capacity for them. .

      Comment by John | August 24, 2021 | Reply

  6. It is Glasgow Central and Queen Street, that need a fast connection.

    Comment by AnonW | August 24, 2021 | Reply

  7. A comparison in journey times between Birmingham and the listed stations might be interesting.

    Comment by Fenline Scouser | August 24, 2021 | Reply

    • (with and without the Eastern Leg)

      Comment by Fenline Scouser | August 24, 2021 | Reply

      • I think I’ll put that in a separate post later.

        Comment by AnonW | August 24, 2021

  8. I have never liked the idea of the HS2 eastern leg as Birmingham too far west,apart from a link to East Midlands Airport Parkway as part of an additional North East/South West route from Birmingham to Nottingham and Newark .My preference has always been for something on the lines of Virgin’s 2000 proposal effectively four tracking the ECML from end to end giving it the capacity needed for both a fast service to principal stations and a decent semifast service to intermediate stations.
    Nor should HS2 Services to East Midlands go via Birmigham.They should branch off HS2 north of Brackley on lines of ex Great Central to Rugby then Leicester to an enlarged East Midlands Parkway station where trains can divide into portions for Nottingham,Derby and Sheffield etc.From Leicester via upgraded lines further North,Toton should not be developed as a station as not located properly for interchange for either Derby or Nottingham.

    Comment by Hugh S | August 24, 2021 | Reply

    • I can remember reading in Trains Illustrated about work extending the four tracks of the ECML to make it the longest four-track main line in the World.

      I wonder if British Rail had a plan to extend the four tracks a lot further. Like Edinburgh?

      But I think that we also ought to make more use of the Midland Main Line. I have SpeedView on my phone, which is like a personal speedometer. On a trip to Sheffield a couple of years ago, the 222 was at 125 mph for virtually all the way.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Network Rail and Hitachi could turn St. Pancras and Sheffield into a 140 mph high speed line for Class 810 trains and in the future for High Speed Two’s Classic Compatible trains.

      Just imagine High Speed Two to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester and then across the Pennines to Leeds and Hull, paired with the ECML and MML, which were all digitally signalled and cleared for 160 mph running.

      Comment by AnonW | August 24, 2021 | Reply

  9. […] Anxiety Over HS2 Eastern Leg Future, I gave a table of timings from London to towns and cities in the North-East quarter of England […]

    Pingback by Timings On The Eastern Leg Of High Speed Two « The Anonymous Widower | August 24, 2021 | Reply

  10. Your timings seem correct and on that basis I agree but it would provide a big improvement in capacity which I believe that this extra capacity will be required.

    Comment by Ben Oldfield | August 25, 2021 | Reply

  11. @Hugh S
    I have always been against HS2 because of its poor ‘Y’ design. The most used part, the London-B’ham section, is only 2-track. Its raison d’etre dissolved when provincial cities had access removed to the Continent and the prime airport, Heathrow. When HS3 (NPR) came in, the whole lot should have gone back to a new blank sheet design. The best would have been one line from London to Edinburgh with NPR branched in, running into HS1.

    The eastern leg is dead, so should be the rest of it. As the Chiltern tunnels are under construction is best to use them, terminating HS2 at Aylesbury. Then branch into the WCML at Rugby using the Gt.Central trackbed from Aylesbury, and another branch into an uprated Chiltern.

    London-Birmingham/West Minds trains are then off the WCML with excellent times matching HS2. More capacity on the WCML as trains can be diverted via Aylesbury to London.

    Of course upgrade the WCML, ECML and MML and a fast bypass tunnel under Crewe station – which is 120 years late.

    Comment by John | August 26, 2021 | Reply

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