Thursday, July 7, 2016

News: How new HS2 route would affect Rotherham

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A new route for the HS2 line through Rotherham has been proposed as part of new recommendations for the South Yorkshire station to be located in Sheffield city centre - and new parts of the borough will be affected.

Instead of a station at Meadowhall, the new option proposes that HS2 services between London and Sheffield would take a spur off the new north-south high speed line and travel directly to the existing Sheffield Midland station using the existing railway line. These trains therefore could potentially also call at Chesterfield.

There is also the future option of HS2 services extending onwards to the existing Meadowhall station, Rotherham, or Barnsley.

The new spur would see two trains per hour into Sheffield on existing lines whilst the main HS2 line continues to carry trains serving Leeds and further North.

The previous preferred route to Meadowhall was due to enter Rotherham at Killamarsh following the line of the disused Chesterfield Canal. Passing Rother Valley Country Park, a viaduct would have taken the line across Sheffield Road at Fence and the River Rother flood plain. It would have seriously affected the £100m Waverley development site and developments either side of the Parkway before passing through Tinsley to Meadowhall. Noise impacts were identified in areas such as Swallownest, Treeton, Catcliffe and Thorpe Hesley.

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Maps unveiled today show that the new route would enter the borough at Woodhall Services as it follows the line of the M1. It would affect Wales Bar where maps show that the line would go underneath School Road immediately to the West of the M1.

A viaduct would take HS2 trains, which travel at up to 225 mph, over the existing railway on the Sheffield to Lincoln Line, over Pigeon Brook Bridge floodplain near developments at Waleswood and over the A57 Aston Bypass before reaching the major M1 motorway exit at Junction 31 at Aston.

Passing through fields and the wind farm at Ulley, the HS2 line would then switch to follow the route of the M18 motorway, with a viaduct over the M1 and Wood Lane, taking it close to Thurcroft.

Running immediately to the West of the M18 the HS2 route would be next to houses and commercial property at Bramley before crossing under the road at Junction 1 of the M18.

Heading out of the borough, the HS2 route would split from the M18 passing Braithwell and Firsby Resevoir before crossing under the A630 between Hooton Roberts and Conisbrough.

A large viaduct would be needed at Denaby Main and over the Dearne floodplain as the route heads North West on to Leeds, joining back to the original proposed route before the M62 at Normanton.
The spur into Sheffield would leave the HS2 line at Chesterfield on the current railway line to Sheffield Midland. This would also create the possibility of "classic compatible" services running through Sheffield Midland to other destinations, including Barnsley, Meadowhall and Rotherham, before rejoining the new HS2 route north of Barnsley, somewhere around the A638.

The report on the new recommendations states: "The route to the East, initially parallel to the M18, would avoid not only the complexities associated with the Meadowhall viaduct, the problems of air quality and congestion – and therefore access – at the shopping centre, as well as the substantial compensation risk associated with demolition of businesses in the area, it would also carry much less risk from the legacy of mining in the area and involve fewer potential watercourse diversions.

"In short, it would be easier, result in less overall expected noise impact, and be less expensive to build, though there would be an impact on a new housing development between Mexborough and Conisbrough, some existing communities and impact on the landscape in parts of the Rother and Dearne valleys. Overall, though, it is expected fewer properties would need to be demolished.

"It would, also, save between one and five minutes on journey times further North with the resulting benefits in terms of both meeting passenger demand and upgrading the business case for the project."

Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said: "I appreciate that the recommendations set out by Sir David Higgins today will cause concern for those living along this newly proposed route and will also be unsettling for those living alongside the consulted route via Meadowhall.

"HS2 Ltd will now engage closely with these affected communities to provide them with the necessary support and information as quickly as possible. I would also like to reassure homeowners along both routes that they are eligible to apply to the government's exceptional hardship scheme from today."

Information events have already been planned for next month in Aston, Bramley and Mexborough.

The report adds that the changes "would mean a change in the service proposition for Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham they would still benefit from the overall proposition."

Although further away than Meadowhall, Rotherham has decent links to Sheffield Midland station. At present, the tram-train is not proposed to stop there. Doncaster users will have longer journeys from the HS2 services at Midland but could benefit from capacity being released from the services from the town. Barnsley users would still benefit from a reduction of at least forty five minutes on most services to London with an easier transfer at Midland.

As well as the prospect of "classic compatible" services servicing other parts of South Yorkshire, a study is now expected to look at the potential for a parkway station on the M18/Eastern leg of the HS2 route which could serve the South Yorkshire area as a whole.

One further scenario not yet examined is the where the route will go for HS3 - a high speed rail link connecting the North's great cities. Studies earlier this year ​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.

In a bid to reduce travel times from Sheffield to Leeds to 30 minutes, a connection would be needed from Sheffield Midland out to the new HS2 route going east of Rotherham. This could be different to using the existing line as a spur as proposed in today's recommendations.

HS2 Ltd website

Images: HS2 Ltd

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