Thursday, February 6, 2014

News: LEP noncommittal on Meadowhall as HS2 station location

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In its final response to the national consultation on the government's High Speed rail (HS2) proposals, the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has declined to commit to backing a specific site for a South Yorkshire station and instead reiterated its stance that the location should be based on achieving the greatest economic benefit.

HS2 is the Government's £50 billion high speed rail project that aims to provide extra capacity to handle increasing demand. By 2033, a South Yorkshire station will be on the proposed route from London to Leeds via Birmingham and the East Midlands. With trains travelling at speeds of up to 250 mph, and each with up to 1,100 seats per train, passengers will be able to get from Leeds in 17 minutes, Birmingham in 38 minutes and from London in one hour and nine minutes.

Plans including the proposed location of a HS2 station at Meadowhall were announced last year with an expectation that it would support the creation of around 5,000 jobs in the station development regeneration areas around Meadowhall and the Lower Don Valley.

Since then, Sheffield Council has stated its desire for the station to be located at Victoria, closer to Sheffield city centre, that would would bring benefits (including an estimated 9,000 jobs), but it would also involve considerable additional cost (an extra £1bn).

In response to the national consultation, the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), on behalf of the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (ITA), recently confirmed support for the proposed station location at Meadowhall, and asked for more to be done to improve the connectivity between the HS2 and the rest of the Sheffield City Region.

Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber and Rotherham Council are also backing Meadowhall with the council echoing the calls for more to be done to improve connectivity to the rest of the region.

In its response, the LEP said: "A number of SCR LEP members / partners hold differing views on where in SCR the HS2 station should be located and as such have made their own representations as part of this consultation.

"However, SCR LEP would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the decision on station location should be based on achieving the greatest economic benefit.

"Local partners expect Government to locate the station where it will deliver the greatest net economic benefit and are keen to continue to work with Government to ensure that this is the case.

"Regardless of station location, there are a number of design and operational principles which SCR partners agree need to adhered to in order ensure that both connectivity and economic benefit are maximised."

These design and operational principles include creating a station integrated with other rail and transport services, improvements to the existing rail network and modified timetables, addressing highway constraints, and an extended tram train network to all urban centres in South Yorkshire.
The response gives its full backing to HS2, recognising the transformational impact it will have on the city region economy, but also makes it clear that HS2 should not reduce service frequencies or reroute some services in ways that may worsen connectivity to and from locations in the region. It strongly recommends the establishment of an investment funding pot for 2019 and beyond, geared at ensuring that maximum benefits can be derived from the existing network.

Other issues are also covered, including the impact on strategic developments sites, such as the enterprise zones, and the uncertainty and blight that is affecting investment decisions.

The impact on the transport network, highways, commercial properties and regeneration projects (such as Waverley and the Chesterfield Canal) are also discussed.

There is strong interest in SCR providing the "home" to the HS2 Skills Academy, the college set to open in 2017 to train students in the skills needed to construct the railway.

It also outlines the clear opportunity for the government to begin work on the project in the North jointly with work in the South and that the route through the region to Leeds should be constructed at the same time as the route to Manchester, as a minimum.

Following the consultation a "route refinement process" will take place before the Secretary of State for Transport makes a final decision about how the project will proceed. It is expected that this decision to be announced towards the end of 2014.

HS2 Ltd website

Images: HS2 Ltd

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