“All this, just to get to Birmingham 20 minutes quicker”, people say. Nope: on the day that HS2 starts, in 2029, its trains will also serve Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow.
Here’s the service pattern. Each line = one train per hour both ways:
The trains run on the new railway between London and near Birmingham, and use the existing railway for running further north. This is the same way as French TGVs reach places not served by dedicated high speed lines.
A couple of years later, the new Euston station will open and more trains can run: three per hour each to Birmingham and Manchester, as well as other services. Here’s the service pattern (these diagrams come from the Business Case):
And they’ll be much faster than now: London to Birmingham will be 32 mins quicker, Liverpool 40 mins quicker, Manchester eventually one hour quicker at 1 hour 7 mins; Glasgow eventually 50 mins quicker.
When the other part of HS2 is built – “Phase 2b” to Manchester, Leeds and York – a whole slew of new services will run. New trains to Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Here’s the service pattern:
And of course, these new trains replace the express trains on the existing network, so that it’s freed up for much better regional and local services. This gives thousands of people in and around Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds the opportunity to use train and ditch the car.
So it’s not just a fast line to Birmingham. It’s equivalent to a reboot of the whole railway network in the Midlands and the North, enabling far more local, regional and freight services to operate, even if they don’t go anywhere near HS2 itself.