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Capacity – helping reduce overcrowding

HS2’s brand new track and fast intercity services will carry more than 2 million people a week and free space for more freight by rail.

HS2 will improve your journey, even if you don't use our trains.

HS2 is a state-of-the-art, high-speed line critical for the UK’s low-carbon transport future. It will provide much-needed rail capacity across the country, and is integral to rail projects in the North and Midlands – helping rebalance the UK economy.

By freeing up space on existing lines, for new local train services, passengers and freight, HS2 helps ease congestion and over-crowding. Travelling by train becomes a more convenient and enjoyable option for everybody, regardless of how far they’re going.

The West Coast Main Line is Europe’s busiest mixed-use railway, accommodating fast inter-city services, stopping commuter trains and freight. By putting high speed services on a dedicated line, HS2 will allow more trains and fewer delays along this route. Freight transport will also benefit from this.

HS2 benefits three main lines and beyond

Only HS2 adds 13,000 peak hour seats on the West Coast Main Line route by building a new railway. The existing railway has been upgraded and is already near capacity. Without HS2 further upgrades can only add 3,000 more seats while severely disrupting services for many years.

HS2 will also enable faster and more frequent services for passengers travelling along the East Coast Main Line between York, Leeds and London. And, on  the Midland Main Line between Sheffield and London.

Use our station picker interactive tool to find out about the stations HS2 will serve along these busy routes.

London Euston

HS2 could provide London Euston with 11,300 peak-hour commuter seats from the opening of Phase One, compared with 6,400 seats in 2017 – a 76% increase. This would create more pleasant journeys for commuters and allow for passenger growth going forward.

Manchester Piccadilly

HS2 will be vital in relieving pressure across Greater Manchester, an area which has seen a 26% increase in rail traffic since 2010-11. HS2 will play a crucial role delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail – the backbone for an integrated northern rail network.  Together these better connections will help to rebalance Britain.  For example, the capacity released by HS2 could more than double evening peak seats from Manchester Piccadilly on Crewe and Stoke-0n-Trent corridors.


Again, HS2 will play a crucial role delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail – the backbone for an integrated northern rail network. The capacity released by HS2 could more than double evening peak seats from Leeds to Doncaster. HS2 could also see the amount of hourly services double between Leeds and eastern towns such as#Newark, Grantham and Retford, with direct services to Norwich and Cambridge possible.

London Kings Cross

On completion of Phase 2b, HS2 could almost double the number of seats from London to Peterborough and other East Coast destinations further north. This would also result in more seats for places such as Stevenage, Hitchin, Huntingdon, Letchworth, Royston, Cambridge and Ely.

Crowded station concourse
HS2's new line supplements three major main lines by releasing capacity on them

Greater capacity for rail freight

By putting direct inter-city services on dedicated high-speed lines, HS2 will create more space on the existing railway to improve local, regional and freight services. Watch this video of David Fletcher, Director of Rail at the Cappagh Group of Companies. Its rail division specialises in delivering construction materials. He speaks from the building site of their new multi-million pound rail freight terminal in Wembley, explaining how HS2 will enable them to run more freight services that can serve more customers across the country. Rail freight has a key role to play in the low carbon economy too, as rail produces 76 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey. One freight train can carry enough material to build 30 houses, and in London, over 40 per cent of construction materials are delivered by rail – and there is demand to move more.

HS2 will create more space to improve freight services to and from London.

Why don’t we just upgrade the existing network?

Much of the UK’s rail network was built over 100 years ago. Demand for rail travel has more than doubled in the past twenty years and passenger numbers continue to grow.

In many places the rail network is over-crowded and unreliable with rail journeys slow and uncomfortable. Commuter and inter-city lines serving London, Birmingham and Manchester are under particular pressure.

Therefore, there are suggestions to upgrade existing routes, like the Grand Central route between the Midlands and London.

The Government is investing £40bn in the existing network, but this cannot provide all the additional capacity required for the future. As a brand new line, HS2 is the best option for taking the pressure off the existing network and adding extra capacity where it is needed most.

Architects image of Old Oak Common station interior and platforms
Architect's vision of the interior of Old Oak Common superhub

How many trains will run?

Once the full network is complete we expect HS2 trains to carry over 300,000 passengers a day. We have planned for the future by making sure that the HS2 network can grow with increased demand.

Up to 48 HS2 trains will be running on the rail network every hour. Up to 18 HS2 trains will run north from London every hour and up to 18 trains will arrive, each carrying up to 1,100 passengers. From Birmingham, up to 6 further HS2 trains will run north every hour, with 6 arriving.

Use our station picker interactive tool to find out about the stations we serve. Each station page lists example journey times.

Architect's vision of the exterior of Leeds station redevelopment.
The high speed train station at Leeds will be a catalyst for wider regeneration

What about regional and local trains?

By shifting long-distance services onto the brand new railway, HS2 will release space on existing routes and provide options for new or additional local, cross-country, commuter and freight services in many areas.

HS2 could also double the number of peak time seats available on busy services from Manchester Piccadilly towards Crewe and Stoke, and from Leeds towards Wakefield and Doncaster.

No decisions on the use of released capacity have yet been taken and options for inclusion in the final HS2 timetable will be developed. A study by Network Rail has shown that with HS2, over 100 towns and cities could benefit from new commuter and intercity services on existing lines.