Monday, October 27, 2014

News: Government backing for HS3 with HS2 set for Meadowhall

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The Government has given its backing to develop HS3 - a high speed rail link connecting the north's great cities which could significantly reduce journey times across the region - with the Sheffield city region needing to press its case for its inclusion.

The backing by the Prime Minister and Chancellor in the run up to the next election comes on the day when HS2 Ltd, the Government's company responsible for developing and promoting the UK's new high speed rail network, is expected to confirm that a South Yorkshire station is included in its vision for HS2 - the £50 billion high speed North to South link - with that station set to be built at Meadowhall.

In June, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, indicated the Government's support to improving transport infrastructure across the North of England to bring together cities and enable them to compete on a global scale. The headline grabber was the mention of a new high speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds, dubbed HS3. It would be based on the existing rail route, but speeded up with new tunnels and infrastructure. The issue of better connections between the cities of the North was highlighted by David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd, in his update report on the project.

In today's report, Sir David again identifies the vital importance of improving east west connectivity across the north and considers the central role a high speed rail link could play. He concludes that with a high speed link the journey time between Leeds and Manchester could be cut from around 55 to between 26 and 34 minutes.

James Newman, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said earlier in the year that he was disappointed that east-west linkages including the Sheffield City Region did not form part of these headline proposals and that the LEP would explore the issue of reducing journey times from Manchester to Sheffield on the southern transpennine route.

In July, One North a strategic proposition for transport in the North, highlighted the need to improve transport links and included proposals for a new 125 mph transpennine rail route by 2030, connected to the HS2 lines and the existing rail network, tunnelled as needed, linking five city regions together with Manchester Airport and the ports. A new freight route across the Pennines was also put forward.

The target is to reduce the rail journey times between Sheffield and Manchester to 30 minutes.

Higgins also previously recommended that co-operation on transport issues should be formalised in the north and in response the Chancellor has announced the creation of a new body called Transport for the North made up of the main northern city regions. This body will work together with other authorities and stakeholders and allow the north to speak with one voice on the big decisions to benefit the region as a whole.

The government, working with Transport for the North, will now produce a comprehensive transport strategy for the region. This will include options, costs and a delivery timetable for a HS3 east west rail connection. An interim report will be produced next March.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Improving connectivity and reducing journey times between our great northern cities is a crucial part of our long term economic plan for the north to boost businesses and create more jobs and security for hardworking people. That's why we are backing HS3."

Sheffield Council expects that today's latest progress report from HS2 Ltd will again place the proposed South Yorkshire station at Meadowhall rather than its preferred location closer to Sheffield city centre at Victoria.

Councillor Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield Council, said: "Given the overwhelming evidence and basic common sense supporting stations being located in city centres and not out of town, it is astonishing that in Sheffield we are still facing the prospect of a station located at Meadowhall. When we're talking about a 21st Century economy which is defined by job growth concentrated in city centres, a parkway station located four miles outside of the centre of Sheffield isn't going to cut it."

HS2 Ltd website

Images: SYPTE / ARUP

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