Wednesday, October 29, 2014

News: Transport Secretary waits on Sheffield's HS2 evidence

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The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, will wait for further evidence from representatives in the Sheffield city region (SCR) before making a final decision on the location of the proposed South Yorkshire HS2 station.


Plans including the proposed location of a station on the £50 billion north - south high speed rail line at Meadowhall were announced last year. There are different views across the Sheffield city region about which location offers the greatest balance of cost and benefit for the city region as a whole. Sheffield City Council 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 is being put forward.

Launching his latest report this week, Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd, reiterated his view that Sheffield Meadowhall is the right answer for the South Yorkshire hub but admitted that the final decision is "finely balanced."

In response, The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, submitted a written statement to Parliament welcoming the backing for the project and recommendations to look again at the route and some of the station locations. HS2 Ltd is set to do more work on the route and stations for Phase Two before a final decision is made by the government, expected in May 2015.

Specific to South Yorkshire, McLoughlin said: "Sir David remains convinced on current evidence that Sheffield Meadowhall is the right location for the South Yorkshire hub. I am waiting for further evidence from Sheffield before a final decision on this."

The newly established combined authority for the Sheffield city region set up a HS2 Programme Board, whose first job was to commission new reports from consultants Pell Frischmann on the two station locations - Meadowhall and Sheffield Victoria. Earlier studies showed that Meadowhall would support the creation of around 5,000 jobs in the station development regeneration areas around Meadowhall and the Lower Don Valley and could add between £0.5 billion and £0.9 billion each year to the economic output of South Yorkshire.

Studies commissioned by Sheffield Council showed that a city centre station create 9,500 jobs and has the potential to generate between £2 - £5 billion net additional economic value over 25 years.

Higgins recognised the regeneration benefits of a station at Victoria but understands that it has implications in terms of costs and time. Previous estimates of a through route and station close to Sheffield city centre added another £1 billion to the overall cost of HS2.

The report also showed that a direct route via a spur terminating at Sheffield Midland station was examined again recently but was rejected as it did not provide onwards connections and "did not provide the connections and journey times necessary to serve the wider Sheffield city region effectively, particularly Rotherham and Barnsley."

Work on the two station locations, including connectivity studies, business case analysis and station design, is planned to conclude in February 2015.

Support for having a station in the region is strong, despite differences in opinion on its location, but responses to the consultation from the region called for more to be done to boost connectivity to the station from around the whole city region. This included calls for boosting local rail links, more tram-trains, improving the M1 and fast links into the heart of Sheffield city centre.

Julie Hurley, interim director of Strategy at the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), said: "We warmly welcome Sir David's recognition of the support from the SCR for HS2 and the ongoing confidence in SCR's suitability for a HS2 station location. 

"However, careful consideration needs to be given to how to best derive benefits for the SCR as well as neighbouring regions on the HS2 route. It is only by making sure the HS2 network is well connected to the whole transport network that the benefits of the new line will be maximised."

This issue has been raised by the report with support from the Government now in place for improved links in the North that could include a £7 billion high speed rail line from Liverpool - Manchester - Leeds - Hull, dubbed HS3. A new body called Transport for the North (TfN), is to be created and a wider transport strategy for the north is to be developed.

Hurley added: "Improving connections between the East and West is vital. But investment in the TransNorth HS3 line must not be only Leeds and Manchester focused and serious consideration must be given to connecting Sheffield to Manchester and Leeds. Sir David's proposed Transport for the North powerhouse will only be realised if a connection to SCR is included within the plans. 

"Linking the SCR HS2 station to the TransNorth line will bring towns and cities closer together in order to boost skills, enable inter-city employment, encourage regional investment and provide security for the North."

HS2 Ltd website

Images: HS2 Ltd

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