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Q&A - HS2 high-speed rail link

Here are some commonly asked questions about the HS2 high-speed rail link:

:: When will building work start and when will the first trains run?

Construction for Phase 1, between London and Birmingham, is set to start in 2017, and construction on Phase 2 - the 211-mile Y-shaped extension northwards from Birmingham - is estimated to start in the 2020s.

Phase 1 is hoped to be open in 2026, and Phase 2 in 2032/33.

:: How much will it all cost?

Estimates have varied, but the full network is expected to cost around 33.1 billion. The first phase was estimated last year to cost around 16.3 billion, while Phase 2 was estimated to cost around 18;2 billion, including the Heathrow spur, and 16.8 billion without it.

Officials say the entire project is forecast to generate benefits of 47 billion and fare revenues of up to 34 billion over 60 years.

According to the DfT the level of spending on the project - which will be spread over two decades - is expected to be less than 2 billion a year, and its "robust business case" is that it will deliver 2 of benefit for every 1 spent.

:: How much will tickets cost?

The Department for Transport (DfT) has not yet released planned ticket prices, but has said that prices will be set "in order that the new rail services can be accessed by all".

:: So how will that help drag the economy out of the current slump?

The Government says extending the planned London to Birmingham HS2 line as far as Manchester and Leeds will help the economies of the Midlands and the North, rebalancing the economy. Officials say the project will create at least 100,000 jobs and David Cameron has said it will spread "wealth and prosperity" around the country.

:: How much will it cut journey times?

According to the DfT, the journey from Manchester to Birmingham would be reduced to 41 minutes and from Manchester to London to one hour eight minutes - almost half the present times.

Leeds will be 57 minutes away from Birmingham compared to one hour 58 minutes today, and one hour 22 minutes away from London Euston, down from two hours 12 minutes - official projections say.

:: How will that compare with flying?

The new projected journey times for HS2 are similar to the time it takes to fly between some northern cities and the capital.

The average flight time from Leeds to London is 55 minutes - but with HS2 coming in at just one hour 22 minutes, by the time people have got to an airport, checked in and boarded, it will probably work out quicker overall to take the train.

The same goes for people travelling from Manchester to London - the train will take one hour eight minutes by high speed rail, while flight time takes an hour.

However, this is probably the case already, with journey times at just over two hours from Manchester to London.

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