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Reaction to new HS2 South Yorkshire route recommendations

8 July 2016  •  Author: Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, European Railway Review

The government is to review new options put forward for the HS2 South Yorkshire route which could abandon original plans for a high speed station at Meadowhall in Sheffield.

HS2 EXTERIOR_DESIGN

In 2013, the recommended HS2 route through South Yorkshire was to travel via a high speed station at Meadowhall, northeast of Sheffield. However, the opinion amongst local stakeholders has always remained divided.

Report re-examines HS2 station location and route in South Yorkshire

On the 07 July 2016, Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP announced the government would review the different options for HS2 South Yorkshire services and revealed two key recommendations put forward by Sir David Higgins, Chairman of HS2 Ltd. The report re-examines both the HS2 station location and route in South Yorkshire as well as alternative high speed city centre proposals at both Sheffield Midland station and the former Sheffield Victoria station.

The two recommendations are;

  • that HS2 services should serve Sheffield Midland station in Sheffield city centre by running high speed ‘classic compatible’ trains into Sheffield via a dedicated link off the main high speed line – under this proposition Sir David believes it would be possible to provide 2 trains per hour into Sheffield city centre and a new high speed service to Chesterfield;
  • that the high speed main line be moved further east, initially running parallel to the M18 – Sir David suggests that this alignment not only avoids the complexities and risks associated with the Meadowhall route but also provides journey time savings to services heading to Leeds, York and Newcastle.

High speed trains from Sheffield to Leeds

Mr McLoughlin highlighted that using the existing Sheffield Midland station for HS2 services opens up the possibility of running high speed trains from Sheffield to Leeds by building a link back onto the main HS2 line north of Sheffield. This link could deliver Transport for the North’s (TfN) ambition for a frequent 30 minute journey time between Leeds and Sheffield, and might also be used by Birmingham-Leeds HS2 services, allowing them to route through Sheffield.

The Transport Secretary noted the concerns of those living along this newly proposed route and realised it would also be unsettling for those living alongside the consulted route via Meadowhall.

“I have listened to the very constructive comments and discussions that have taken place on how HS2 should best serve South Yorkshire and recommend the option of HS2 services using the existing city centre station”

Announcing his proposals HS2 Ltd Chairman, David Higgins said: “Projects of HS2’s size, scale and significance should seek to provide the maximum benefit for the people they serve.

“I have listened to the very constructive comments and discussions that have taken place on how HS2 should best serve South Yorkshire and recommend the option of HS2 services using the existing city centre station.

“Decisions of this scale sometimes involve compromise, and through dialogue I believe we have reached the best solution for South Yorkshire.

A decision on the HS2 Phase Two route is expected later this year. “Should I decide to adopt the report’s recommendations as my preferred option in South Yorkshire I will then hold a public consultation in order to allow local stakeholders and affected communities the opportunity to comment on the proposal, alongside a consultation on the property compensation and assistance schemes for the entire route,” said Mr McLoughlin.

The announcement follows a  report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) suggesting the schedule for delivering HS2 was an ‘unrealistic timetable’ and warned the 2026 target opening date for phase 1 was at risk.

Reaction to proposed HS2 South Yorkshire route alternatives

Reacting to the report alternatives, Colin Elliff, Civil Engineering Principal at HSUK – a proposed alternative to HS2 – said, “It’s difficult to comment on the accuracy of HS2’s projected cost savings, but it’s quite possible that when the details of HS2’s new (and equally difficult) route east of Rotherham emerge, and when details of the upgrade of Sheffield Midland also emerge, these savings will largely evaporate. What is certain is that the changes will do nothing to improve HS2’s offering for the entire Yorkshire region. The switch to Sheffield Midland will have the effect of increasing HS2 journey times to Sheffield, and to cities further north, such as Leeds. It will also fragment the network even more, and raise yet more concerns as to the inadequate capacity of HS2’s 2-track route between London and the West Midlands.

“The changes will do nothing to improve HS2’s offering for the entire Yorkshire region”

“This is sticking plaster engineering at its worst.  HS2 Ltd’s belated attempts to address public concerns in Sheffield will do nothing to address the wider failings of the HS2 scheme. The very existence of the comprehensively superior HSUK scheme should demonstrate the total failure of the processes underpinning HS2. HSUK’s studies of HS2 Ltd’s published documentation also reveal compelling prima facie evidence of HS2 Ltd’s failure to give fair and proper consideration to better-performing alternatives.”

“I am delighted that we have had the time to work constructively to ensure the city region could be best served by Britain’s new high speed rail network”

Welcoming the alternative plans Chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP Sir Nigel Knowles said: “HS2 is a vital investment in the Sheffield City Region’s future. I am delighted that we have had the time to work constructively to ensure the city region could be best served by Britain’s new high speed rail network, which we expect to include trains calling at Chesterfield in the south of the city region, a parkway station as well as the line into the centre of Sheffield.

“Connectivity with the rest of the UK is a major factor in achieving our growth plans. Of equal importance is the inter-connectivity within the North, via HS3, and we look forward to working with the government and other partners to bring that into fruition as quickly as possible.

“So I welcome David Higgins’ report and look forward to the Secretary of State’s decision in due course.”

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