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21.07.17

Was the HS2 route decision for Sheffield correct?

This week has been a busy one for HS2. A number of important announcements were made by Chris Grayling, who will surely be glad to head off on holiday for some rest and relaxation as Parliament heads into its summer recess.

Major details of £6.6bn worth of construction contracts were announced, as well as a pair of shortlists for HS2 station design and master development contracts.

And that’s without mentioning the quiet release of HS2’s accounts, which showed that the company had been spending a fair amount on (some would say) overly generous redundancy pay-outs over the past year.

But the announcement that had everyone in the industry and the national press talking was the clarified information about the high-speed rail line’s route for Phase 2 beyond Birmingham.

It confirmed that Phase 2a would connect Birmingham Curzon to Crewe, before going on to Manchester Piccadilly and Warrington separately.

Sheffield c. Lynne Cameron, PA Archive

However, despite the government suggesting earlier this year that a connection to Sheffield Meadowhall, the interchange outside the city centre, was still on the cards, the plans showed that HS2 would serve the centre of the South Yorkshire city.

A survey of RTM readers showed that this was a decision that most agreed with, as almost half (48%) said that this made economic sense for the area.

However, a number of people responded with some concern to the route plans. Nearly a quarter (23%) of readers partially agreed, saying that HS2 serving the city centre was the right move, but that the line should go to the disused Sheffield Victoria instead of Sheffield Midland.

And around one in five (21%) readers disagreed with the decision entirely, saying that the route should head out of Sheffield to Meadowhall as this option had been better researched.

Finally, 8% said there was not enough data or evidence for any decision to be made yet, and that the announcement of the route had been premature.

One RTM reader, Gabriel Oaks, said that the decision to go into the centre was essential, as with some of the other HS2 terminals which are still to be built, passengers will have to make onward connections anyway.

“Many passengers will have an onward rail connection off HS2, others onto buses etc.,” he argued. “Unfortunately, in this respect Birmingham Curzon Street and London Euston are slightly flawed.”

This was a point that Graham Nulty said he agreed with, adding that the company did not have the convenience of passengers high up in their priorities.

“The best solution would be to build the Leeds leg of HS2 through the centre of Sheffield so that Leeds and Sheffield share the same HS2 trains – which would give far better load factors,” he commented. 

“The leg of the route for York could be routed via Doncaster adding value, though one has to question if it is really worth serving York and Newcastle with HS2 as the journey time savings will be very small compared to the current East Coast Main Line. It does seem that HS2 are not interested in improving the economies of the northern cities, only getting the fastest journey time to London – which will benefit London more than the north.”

Finally, Stuart Burton argued that the best solution would be to tunnel the main HS2 line into Sheffield Midland, and that Sheffield Meadowhall was never acceptable.

“Now we have a ridiculous situation where more trains need to be bought, trains using the slow old tracks into Sheffield and South Yorkshire gets loads of pain and no station – so no gain," said Burton. “Yes it would have cost a lot to tunnel into Midland, but there is plenty of tunnelling going off elsewhere – e.g. Crewe. Such an expensive project that will be done half baked. Very frustrating.”

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Comments

Nick Comfort   21/07/2017 at 11:14

As a former municipal correspondent of the Sheffield Morning Telegraph who covered the final train journey through Woodhead, I am convinced the decision is a huge mistake. Victoria might have made an ideal HS2 stop had it fitted in better with the proposed route, but Meadowhall too would have given the Sheffield/Rotherham conurbation a station on the high speed system itself. Trains will now have to crawl from near Chesterfield to Sheffield Midland over crowded infrastructure that will probably not now even be electrified, and the Midland station itself cannot accommodate these extra trains without major rebuilding - and reinstatement of a second pair of tracks approaching from the south. Then there is the conundrum of how to feed these trains back onto the network through the bottleneck just north of the station. In addition, the time penalties imposed will be enormous. I cannot help feeling that the city council, which has done so much to drive the revival of Sheffield, has this time shot itself in the foot.

Graham Nalty   21/07/2017 at 20:15

Nick Comfort makes a very good point that Victoria might have made an ideal stop. But this choice depends wholly on whether Sheffield City Council are prepared to rebalance the city centre around Victoria. Meadowhall was never a good choice because economic studies showed that TWO THIRDS of jobs that could be generated by HS2 would be lost if the city were served by an out-of-town parkway station with inferior transport links compared to the city centre. I think it is obvious, with or without HS2, that Sheffield Midland needs to expand to handle all the likely increases in rail passengers. So the best option is to rebuild Midland, not only to cater for increases in local traffic, but also to provide 400 metre platforms to cater for the longest HS2 trains. Yes there will be challenges, but Britain has a highly enviable past reputation in for high quality civil engineering works, so why not rise to the challenge as we have done for centuries.

Banklineman   01/08/2017 at 20:55

I suggest the railway foot print to the east of Victoria Stn is far easier to engineer and could quite comfortably accommodate a 5 platform through Stn with subway connection to MML platforms, to also include with realignment the near by tram system. All major arterial roads are close by for easy access.

Derek   17/01/2018 at 17:04

HS2 will now simply by-pass Sheffield and the huge investment planned for a Meadowhall station will be lost.Leeds will have an access station with links on to the NE and Scotland. After Leeds the first stop south is in the Derby-Nottingham corridor. Few HS2 trains will be diverted off the HS2 line into Sheffield from either Leeds or Birmingham. Spare a thought for those residents of new homes in Mexborough who now get a railway they did not ask for.

Derek   17/01/2018 at 17:06

HS2 will now simply by-pass Sheffield and the huge investment planned for a Meadowhall station will be lost.Leeds will have an access station with links on to the NE and Scotland. After Leeds the first stop south is in the Derby-Nottingham corridor. Few HS2 trains will be diverted off the HS2 line into Sheffield from either Leeds or Birmingham. Spare a thought for those residents of new homes in Mexborough who now get a railway they did not ask for.

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