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Capacity – helping reduce overcrowding

HS2: More Capacity, Cutting Carbon and Better Connectivity

Wtch how HS2 delivers more capacity, reduced carbon and better connectivity.

Much of the UK’s rail network was built over 100 years ago. Rail travel has more than doubled over the last 20 years. Network Rail invests more than £130 million in improvements for passengers each week, 22% of the UK’s entire infrastructure spend. Over the past 10 years, rail infrastructure investment has amounted to more than £74 billion, but this can’t provide all the additional capacity required on the network.

Further upgrades to current lines would cause significant disruption for passengers and lineside communities, and would deliver a fraction of the capacity as a new railway line. It is estimated that upgrading existing lines instead of building the first phase of HS2 would result in 2,700 weekend closures over 15 years.

How HS2 creates more rail capacity

As a brand new railway line, HS2 is the best option for taking the pressure off the existing network. it adds extra capacity where it is needed most. Building HS2 frees up a massive amount of space on the existing railway by placing long distance services on their own pair of tracks. Once HS2 is operating, services can run much closer together, meaning there can be more rush hour trains, helping to relieve overcrowding.

Once the full network is operational we expect HS2 trains to carry over 300,000 passengers a day. HS2 is future proofed, by making sure the network can grow with increased demand.

When complete, HS2 will add greater capacity along the UK’s current main North-South rail routes; West Coast, East Coast and Midland main lines. This means more train services across the country, more seats for passengers and fewer delays. Use the HS2 Journey Planner to see how journeys will be transformed by HS2.

HS2 train times

Try our calculator to find out about HS2 and the stations it serves.

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 will create more pleasant journeys for commuters and allow for passenger growth going forward.

Find out more about HS2’s Euston Station.

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 also play a crucial role delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail – the backbone for an integrated northern rail network. Together these better connections will help to level-up the country. For example, the capacity released by HS2 could more than double evening peak seats from Manchester Piccadilly on Crewe and Stoke-0n-Trent corridors.

Find out more about HS2 in Manchester.


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.

Find out more about HS2 in Leeds.

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.

Chester and Wales

HS2 Phase 2a could free up capacity to offer more seats for services via Crewe between North Wales, Chester and London.

Chester and North Wales could be better connected to the capital by increasing the frequency of the London-Chester service from one to two trains per hour. Some of these services could be extended to provide a more regular service to destinations in North Wales from London – potentially to an hourly service.

For example, the PLANET Framework Model (PFM) suggests that, following the completion of Phase 2b, an additional train per day between Chester and London Euston, and Holyhead and London Euston (via Chester) could be added with additional calls at Crewe, Stafford, Lichfield Trent Valley, Tamworth, Nuneaton, Rugby and Milton Keynes.

According to Transport for West Midlands, capacity released post-HS2 could also enhance routes beyond Wolverhampton to the West, increasing services to and from Telford, Shrewsbury and Wellington, for example, which would benefit onward journeys to the west coast of Wales.

Meanwhile, regional partnership Growing Mid Wales aims to extend the Heart of Wales Line and selected Cambrian Main Line services to Crewe for connectivity to HS2.

More capacity for rail freight

More freight trains

By putting direct inter-city services on dedicated high-speed lines, HS2 will create more space on the existing railway for rail freight services.  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. Watch the video below to see how one rail freight company can better meet demand thanks to HS2.

Fewer lorries

HS2 will also take hundreds of thousands of lorries off the roads every year as more freight can travel by rail. This will make our motorways safer, improve air quality and help reduce carbon emissions. Each freight train removes up to 76 lorries from our roads, which currently amounts to 1.5 billion fewer kilometres a year by heavy goods vehicles, or more than seven million lorry journeys. Visit the dedicate HS2 and freight page.

HS2 – adding freight capacity


HS2: Greater Capacity for rail freight

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