Monday, February 2, 2015

News: Sheffield City Region getting on track for HS2

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Sheffield City Region's business community has joined forces with local Councils to give its support to HS2 - and it is urging the wider business community to get behind the plans and get ready for the supply chain opportunities it will bring.

The £50 billion project aims to provide extra capacity to handle increasing demand on the rail network. By 2033, a South Yorkshire station will be on the proposed high speed route from London to Leeds via Birmingham and the East Midlands. The chairman of HS2 Ltd, David Higgins, has proposed bringing forward completion from 2033 to 2030.

Last year, the HS2 Growth Taskforce outlined how HS2 could be an exciting and transformational opportunity for cities in the North to invest in future economic growth and enable them to compete with cities around the world. However, it said at the time regarding Sheffield that: "HS2 policy-readiness at the city region level is potentially being held back because of a lack of local consensus regarding the optimal station location for maximising economic growth and regeneration."

Sheffield City Council is strongly opposed to the proposed route and believes that the current preferred station location at Meadowhall chosen by Government is a mistake. Instead, a vision for an HS2 station at Victoria, closer to Sheffield city centre, is being put forward.

The "Ontrack4hs2" campaign was launched at the 2015 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Business Conference last week and is a new campaign to maximise the benefits of the high speed rail coming to the Sheffield City Region.

James Newman, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) (pictured, left), said: "HS2 is essential to the North's future sustainable growth and it will play a major part in the economic success of the Sheffield City Region in particular. It will encourage investment into the City Region and make doing business easier by improving connections between the City Region, the capital and other parts of the UK.

"The project will bring a huge amount of opportunities for local businesses and this campaign aims to make sure that local business leaders are ready to be part of the vast supply chain it will create. The City Region’s global reputation for innovation and advanced manufacturing, should give us a significant advantage in gaining new business from these contracts and it is up to local business leaders to make sure we do so by engaging with HS2 and Ontrack4hs2 as soon as possible.

"We believe the huge transport and connectivity benefits HS2 will deliver nationally will have a major impact locally. It's time for everyone living and working in the City Region to give their support to HS2 - to ensure the area doesn't miss out on the business opportunities that this once in a generation opportunity will bring."

In the Sheffield City Region alone, HS2 is forecast to create thousands of jobs. It is also expected to create supply chain opportunities, not least for local firms involved in the rail industry. At present 200 companies in the City Region, employing more than 6,000 people, have a direct connection with the rail industry.

Ontrack4hs2 is also backing plans to make the Sheffield City Region a centre of excellence for high speed rail engineering. In October 2014, Doncaster was chosen as one of two sites for a High Speed Rail College, set up to ensure the country has the skills and expertise to deliver the HS2 project.

Simon Carr, LEP Board Member and managing director of Henry Boot Construction (pictured, right), said: "The business community in the Sheffield City Region and all our local authorities are united in support of HS2 phase two. Over the next few years as the plans are developed we will be working hard to ensure they reflect the needs and aspirations of the City Region. Our focus will be on obtaining the maximum economic and business benefits from this major infrastructure project.

"Making sure the Sheffield City Region is better connected to London and other cities, such as Birmingham and Leeds,4 has the potential to transform the local economy and help narrow the gap between the north and south.

"It will provide much needed additional capacity on our railways and will ease pressure on other parts of the transport system such as the road network. With rail passenger numbers set to rise in the next few decades, the additional capacity offered by HS2 is essential to ensure the country can continue to meet its transport needs."

Ben Ruse, lead spokesperson for HS2 Ltd, added: "The Government plans to confirm the technical details of High Speed Two’s route in the coming year, so now is the perfect time to get plans underway.

"The proposed HS2 hub at the heart of the city region's road and rail network will give towns and cities across South Yorkshire the high capacity, high speed connections they need to see jobs and businesses thrive.

"Better links to Leeds and further North, and across the Midlands, will give small businesses in the area a competitive edge in reaching new customers and suppliers. Faster links to the South East will allow the region's unrivalled expertise in logistics and high tech engineering reach new international markets."

Transport leaders in the Sheffield city region are moving closer to making a decision on which potential HS2 station location to support and a response is expected after the end of February. A Government decision on the station location is expected to be made later this year.

Ontrack4hs2 website

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