Businesses and MPs at odds over HS2 Sheffield route decision

Local politicians and business leaders in South Yorkshire are firmly at odds over the government’s decision to link HS2 services to Sheffield city centre, as opposed to Meadowhall or the mothballed Sheffield Victoria station.

The decision of where to connect high-speed services in the region has always been a major sticking point, with several alterations being put out for consultation. The DfT’s initial preference was for a Meadowhall location, but it later revised proposals after a report by Sir David Higgins suggested the new route would save around £1bn – an important consideration in a project whose price tag is already said to be spiralling out of control.

A city centre location was also more in line with what the business community wanted, with leaders from the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry asking for services to connect to the old Victoria station near the city centre and calling for an independent review on the matter.

Yesterday, the DfT confirmed it will be pressing forward with a link that serves Sheffield city centre by running high-speed ‘classic compatible’ trains into the region via a dedicated spur off the main HS2 line.

In its report, the government argued that changing the way Sheffield is served “opens up the potential to meet Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) aspiration fir city-centre-to-city-centre connectivity”, particularly by connecting Sheffield and Leeds by building a link back on to the main HS2 line which could delivery frequent 30-minute journeys. It also claimed views that a station at Sheffield Meadowhall would be better for regional development were “not universal”.

“The HS2 Ltd Design Panel, a body of independent experts convened to advise HS2 Ltd on design issues, noted that a city centre site could do more to drive regeneration and development,” the document said. “Similarly, a number of organisations responsible for regionally important developments such as the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation District also welcomed the move to the M18/Eastern Route as a way of securing the future of these developments by avoiding concentrations of proposed developments.”

But opportunities still remain on the table to expand this service in the future, the DfT revealed, such as through the delivery of a parkway station on the HS2 mainline or existing network, the extension of HS2 services to run beyond Sheffield Midland, or a combination of both.

Ed Miliband, former Labour leader and MP for Doncaster North, who previously told transport minister Andrew Jones that Sheffield had been “sold a pup” by HS2 Ltd, attacked the government’s final decision, which he branded “wrong and perverse”.

“It flies in the face of evidence, logic, and above all, the economic needs of South Yorkshire,” he continued. “The Meadowhall route would be better for jobs, regeneration, journey times, connectivity and for tackling the inequalities we face.

“We now know that the consultation was 15:1 against the M18 route but it has been ignored. The government and HS2 should be ashamed about the way they have gone about this decision. Their arguments do not add up, the consultation was a sham, and the residents have been ignored.”

He also criticised transport secretary Chris Grayling for “adding insult to injury” by not justifying the route decision at the Commons and promised he would seek to “force him to come and explain himself” today.

But other politicians were less critical, with Cllr Julie Dore, Sheffield City Council leader, reiterating that her authority has always believed that a city centre location would boost HS2’s economic impact, transport benefits and job creation.

She added: “While we welcome the fact that HS2 have committed to funding a junction, we will be seeking further commitments from government to ensure that the connection north of Sheffield is funded to enable high-speed connections out of Midland and up to places like Leeds and Newcastle.”

Richard Wright, executive director at Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, also welcomed the route announcement, which he admitted was part of a “difficult and prolonged decision-making process” – but one that ultimately landed on a solution “that gives a good and balanced economic return for the whole region”.

“To get the best return for the region we must ensure everybody has good connectivity to the new station(s), that HS2 is properly integrated into both the existing rail network and that being delivered by TfN, originally called HS3,” said Wright.

TfN itself also argued the announcement was a step forward, with Nigel Foster, its strategy director, stating the investment will “give confidence to the business community and those who want to live and work in the north”.

“We are pleased that the secretary of state recognises that the investment will also free up capacity for local and commuter services and freight on the rail network in the north,” he added. “This will provide scope for addressing crowding and resilience and create opportunities for new services in the north.”

Business leaders from across the board also responded positively to the phase 2 route as a whole. Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the confirmation of the northern leg would come “as a real boost”.

“Business communities want to see the decision-making process for HS2 continue at pace, and will be pleased that the government has also moved to award the first big contracts for the project, so that work can begin on the ground as soon as possible,” he concluded.

(Top image c. Lynne Cameron, PA Archive)


Gabriel Oaks   18/07/2017 at 13:34

Many passengers will have an onward rail connection off HS2, others onto buses etc. Good onward connections into existing transport systems are absolutely essential. Unfortunately in tis respect Birmingham Curzon Street and London Euston are slightly flawed.

Graham Nalty   18/07/2017 at 14:30

Gabriel Oaks makes a very good point. HS2 do not appear to have put the convenience of passengers high in their priorities. HS2 do not even listen to their design panel who suggested that a city centre station would drive development. 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. 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 fasted journey time to London - which will benefit London more than the north.

Stuart Burton   20/07/2017 at 08:41

Surely the best solution would have been as graham suggested to tunnel the main hs2 line into sheffield midland, maximising loads. Meadowhall would never have been acceptable for Sheffield and 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. Yes it would have cost a lot to tunnel into Midland, but there is plenty of tunneling going off elsewhere - eg Crewe. Such an expensive project that will be done half baked. Very frustrating.

Banklineman   31/07/2017 at 22:00

The route into Sheff Vic is a surface formation from the proposed HS2 phase 2 route from the south, tunnelling required to take the formation north to Leeds & Manchester from Sheff Vic the route also cross the MML just north of Sheff Mid.

Banklineman   01/08/2017 at 22:54

The lack of enthusiasm by the planners for Sheffield Vic may I suggest, it's only 41mls from Manchester Picc and seriously bring into question why you would require the "Y" route, and all the expense incurred, so now the planners suggest the route goes in an easterly direction before turning north to Leeds, Is this a cash cow for civil engineering companies of which a number are Tory donors.

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