Wednesday, August 6, 2014

News: Sheffield city region still weighing up HS2 station locations

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Transport leaders are still undecided on which HS2 station location will work best for the Sheffield city region - Meadowhall, as chosen by the government, or Sheffield Victoria, as desired by Sheffield City Council.

The HS2 Taskforce said in a report in March that the Sheffield city region's readiness to take advantage of the £50 billion high speed rail project is potentially being held back because of a lack of local consensus regarding where the station should go.

Plans including the proposed location of a HS2 station at Meadowhall (pictured, below) were announced last year. The location is backed by the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (SYITA) - the precursor to a Sheffield city region combined authority, Rotherham Council and Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber.

In response to the government's consultation, Sheffield City Council said that it is strongly opposed to the proposed route and believes that the current preferred station location chosen by Government is a mistake. Instead, a vision for an HS2 station at Victoria, closer to Sheffield city centre (pictured, top), is being put forward.

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.

The newly established combined authority has set up a HS2 Programme Board, whose first job was to commission new reports from consultants Pell Frischmann on the two station locations and ensure that the region is ready to work on related infrastructure and funding bids when the final route is announced, possibly in May 2015.

Studies undertaken before the Secretary of State announces final route and station location for phase 2, will concentrate on providing a preliminary but comprehensive connectivity package and business case for both station locations. Following the Secretary of State announcement, more detailed analysis and planning will be undertaken on the chosen location's connectivity plan.

Sheffield City Council is set to cover the cost of the studies for Sheffield Victoria.
Work is also taking place with partners such as Network Rail and the Highways Agency regarding connectivity packages for the proposed stations. The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) called for £1.5 billion worth of connectivity improvements to ensure that the Meadowhall station and the region reaches its full economic potential.

Ideas for the improved connectivity includes the the tram-train, Bus Rapid Transit system, improvements to rail infrastructure and more carriages and feeder services, electrification of current rail lines, links to the region's airport and significant improvements to M1 Junction 33 and 34, and even realigning the M1 itself.

At Victoria, potential improvements include new stops on the Midland Mainline and Sheffield - Worksop line (providing a direct link to the Advanced Manufacturing Park and Waverley), the Lincoln-Worksop-Sheffield line would stop at a "New Victoria" station freeing capacity at Midland station, and new lines would connect Victoria to the Supertram network.

Yesterday saw the launch of "One North," a strategic proposition for transport in the North led by the city regions of Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. It included a proposition to bring forward the delivery of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield.

Simon Green, executive director, place portfolio at Sheffield City Council, said: "These announcements all point to a changing focus on HS2 and wider connectivity in the North as catalysts for growth and jobs, with cities driving this transformation. Yet Government's preferred parkway station location in Sheffield goes against this narrative: an out of town parkway station at Meadowhall will not allow Sheffield City Region to play its full role in a future network of connected cities."

HS2 Ltd website

Images: Sheffield City Council / SYPTE / ARUP

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