Tuesday, July 26, 2016

News: Economic analysis needed on HS2 route change

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An economic assessment has yet to be done on the new proposed route of the HS2 line through Rotherham, recommended changes to which came "out of the blue" earlier this month.

Construction on HS2, the high speed North to South rail link that aims to provide extra capacity to handle increasing demand, will begin during this Parliament and has been given a funding envelope of £55.7 billion in 2015 prices. It should reach Birmingham in 2026 and Manchester and Leeds by 2033.

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. Instead of travelling into a new station at Meadowhall, the HS2 line to Leeds would travel east of Rotherham following the M1 and M18 before heading through the Dearne Valley.

The new recommendations would cut journey times on services heading to Leeds, York and Newcastle, and would also reduce the cost of the project by around £1billion.

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Kevin Barron MP, whose constituency includes affected areas of Wales, Aston, Ulley, Thurcroft, Bramley and Hellaby, believes the plan has been poorly thought through and is worried that an economic assessment has not been done for the route before publication.

Writing to the new Transport secretary, Mr Barron said: "I have been a long time supporter of HS2 as I believed that it would bring business and investment to areas that desperately need it, however it now appears that the areas that will receive the most will be the big cities.

"We are now left with a situation where we will have my constituency and others in South Yorkshire taking all the disruption but receiving none of the benefits. This cannot be right, I would urge you to ask HS2 to re-look at the plans and reinstate Meadowhall station which is much better for South Yorkshire as a whole."

A report by KPMG in 2013 estimated that HS2 at Meadowhall could add between £0.5 billion and £0.9 billion each year to the economic output of South Yorkshire and increase output in Rotherham by as much as £272m each year. The figures represented an increase of between 2.3% and 4.8% of Rotherham's GDP (the market value of all final goods and services produced) - the eleventh highest percentage increase of all 235 UK areas in the analysis.

One key statistic from the report is that the number of people who can reasonably access employment in South Yorkshire would increase by nearly 32% as a result of investment in an HS2 station at Meadowhall.

John Healey MP, whose constituency includes affected areas of Bramley and Ravenfield, said that the HS2 decision came out of the blue. Writing to concerned residents, he added: "I was dismayed to see the surprise new proposals to drop Meadowhall as South Yorkshire's HS2 stop. Instead, HS2 favours a loop into Sheffield using existing track, with the main track running through South Yorkshire, close to the M18 and up through the Dearne. The number one purpose of this change is clearly to cut costs and I fear the so-called spur line to Sheffield is simply a sop to the city.

"Clearly we now risk seeing the new high speed line to Leeds running right through South Yorkshire but not stopping in South Yorkshire or bringing any of the potential benefits to our area."

Healey is set to meet with David Higgins, the chairman of HS2 who published the recommended changes, next week.

The areas of Rotherham expected to be affected by the new route are discussed here. An information event is planned for Aston today.

The Secretary of State for Transport is considering David Higgins' report in detail and will make an announcement on the full HS2 Phase 2 route later this year.

HS2 website

Images: HS2 Ltd

3 comments:

Anonymous,  July 26, 2016 at 11:27 AM  

I believe Sheffield is being hoodwinked too. The new route does nothing to improve journey times on the very poor Sheffield to Leeds service. Surely increasing links between these two great northern cities should be an aim of HS2 - the new route is a lost opportunity to do this.

Anonymous,  July 27, 2016 at 4:15 PM  

1. If HS2 cuts a journey time by 15 minutes, but you have to travel 15 minutes or more to board it, there is NO benefit.
2. Anyone near enough to a station can commute to London instead of working locally. How does that benefit the region? It will have the opposite effect!

Graham Nalty,  July 30, 2016 at 5:22 PM  

High speed rail only delivers full benefits if the trains serve city centre stations. Meadowhall was never a good choice for a HS2 station as it has been shown by economics experts Volterra that a city centre station would create about three times the number of jobs. The only real decision is whether the HS2 station should be Sheffield Midland or Sheffield Victoria and this should be decided by the people of Sheffield and not by Sir David Higgins and his quango HS2 Ltd. To those people still asking to reconsider Meadowhall, I would ask why no one is asking for a parkway station to serve Leeds instead of the city centre station. HS2 Ltd has not considered the needs of the Birmingham to Leeds HS2 trains for which Sheffield is the largest intermediate station. A situation in which trains that stop at Sheffield take 30 minutes longer than trains that bypass it will not be acceptable to commercially driven rail operators.

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