Monday, April 18, 2016

News: Minister confirms South Yorkshire link to HS3

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Following a debate in the House of Commons on road and rail links between Manchester and Sheffield, transport bosses have confirmed that South Yorkshire is part of the plans for a northern powerhouse rail network - HS3.

The Government gave its backing in 2014 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 issue of better connections between the cities of the North was highlighted by David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd.

HS2 is the £50 billion high speed North to South link - with a South Yorkshire station set to be built at Meadowhall.

Angela Smith MP, campaigner for better cross Pennine links and local MP, secured a commons debate on the issue to highlight the poor transport connections that mean that the economies around Manchester and Sheffield "are largely separate from each other."

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones, said in the debate: "We are working to establish better rail connections across the whole of the north of England. In March 2015, the Government and Transport for the North set out the vision for the northern powerhouse rail network - HS3, as it is sometimes called. South Yorkshire is certainly part of those plans; there is no question about that.

"It is an ambition for radically faster, more frequent links between the six city regions of the north: Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, and Hull, along with Manchester airport. That ambition includes, for example, six trains an hour with 30-minute journey times between Sheffield city centre and Manchester, and better connectivity for passengers from South Yorkshire to Manchester airport.

"Initial findings, published in the spring 2016 report on the northern transport strategy, ​indicate that that is likely to include a mixture of upgrades to existing lines, the construction of new lines, and the use of northern sections of HS2."

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An influential report from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) stated that options to connect Sheffield city centre to HS2 were being looked at including relocating the station and a potential link from Sheffield Midland station to Meadowhall that would allow compatible through-running of trains on the HS2 line to the north.

The Penistone and Stocksbridge MP also used the debate to state her view that "Meadowhall is the best option for an HS2 station in South Yorkshire on the way to Leeds at end of the eastern branch of HS2."

As feasibility studies are carried out on a potential road tunnel through the Pennines, the MP added that: "A new tunnelled rail link could come out in the Penistone area, probably in my constituency, and spur not only up to Leeds and over to Hull, but down into South Yorkshire, Sheffield, Rotherham and potentially beyond. The developments on the table are exciting, but we are absolutely adamant in South Yorkshire that we want to be included in the Government's options for both rail and road."

A Government-commissioned study has already determined that there is a clear strategic case for a road tunnel between Greater Manchester and the Sheffield City Region.

Speaking after the debate, Angela said: "Ever since I entered Parliament myself along with other campaigners have been making the case for new transport links across the Peninnes. It is encouraging that the Government is at last taking our concerns seriously and actively looking to make step change improvements. The evidence is now stacking up that poor connectivity is holding back Sheffield and South Yorkshire.

"I am looking forward to the Government reporting back in the autumn with more details of the proposals as they progress."

Images: Transport for the North

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