Thursday, September 8, 2016

News: Rotherham Council continues to back previous HS2 plans

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Rotherham Council has reiterated its preference for the South Yorkshire HS2 station at Meadowhall, stating that not enough information is available on the new proposals announced earlier this year.

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 announced in July proposes that HS2 services between London and Sheffield would take a spur off the high speed line and travel directly to the existing Sheffield Midland station using the existing railway line.

A city centre station solution for Sheffield high speed services would allow the main HS2 line to be built east of the previously proposed route, following the M1 and M18 through Rotherham 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 £1 billion.

HS2 Ltd added that the route would create the possibility of classic compatible services running through Sheffield Midland to other destinations, including Barnsley, Meadowhall and Rotherham. However, a link North from Sheffield Midland and back onto the HS2 line has not been confirmed but may be included in proposals for HS3 / Northern Powerhouse Rail which aims to link Sheffield with Leeds and Manchester in under 30 minutes.

The issue was discussed at a full council meeting this week which also included a number of questions on the issue by concerned residents.

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The 2013 route to Meadowhall affected development at Rotherham employment sites such as the former Laycast foundry at Fence, and impacts the Waverley development. The 2016 route east of Rotherham would affect Wales, Aston, Ulley, Thurcroft, Bramley, Hellaby, Ravenfield and Hooton Roberts.

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.

Giving the Council's official line on the updated HS2 proposals, Cllr. Denise Lelliott, cabinet member for jobs and the local economy at Rotherham Council, explained that the Council continues to back 2013 proposals for the HS2 station location at Meadowhall. She outlined the economic studies carried out showing the benefits to Rotherham of a station at Meadowhall and discussed the lack of information regarding the proposed route east of Rotherham.

She added: "We are unable to ascertain where there may be any benefits at all to Rotherham due to the uncertainties in terms of whether there will be a Sheffield loop or a Parkway station in the Rotherham area. Additionally, it is not know how many homes or businesses will be adversely affected by the HS2 consultation route. This being the case, Rotherham is in favour of the original proposed route rather than the revised route put forward."
Also at the meeting, a UKIP-led motion was put forward which asked members whether they want to "oppose the intent to re-route HS2" and "persuade the government to abolish the project entirely."

The ruling Labour party, proposed an amendment to the motion which agreed with the opposition to the new proposed route, but instead of proposing to persuade the Government to abolish the whole project, instead proposed that the Council should work alongside others on developing the transport improvements that best serve the area.

Councillors discussed the pros and cons to the project, including speed, capacity and cost, and also discussed the need for improved transport across the North.

Council leader Chris Read said that he had "two hats" on the issue - as a former Bramley resident and ward councillor he is incensed on behalf of residents and "heartbroken" regarding the new route, but as leader of Council he said that he has to look at it for the potential benefits in terms of jobs and investment into the borough.

The amended motion was passed.

Local MPs have also raised issues with Government and HS2 that areas of South Yorkshire face "taking all the disruption but receiving none of the benefits."

John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne has written to new transport secretary Chris Grayling and asked his department "to commission HS2 to undertake a study of the feasibility and benefits of a mainline South Yorkshire station, on the HS2 route rather than on a "loop" of standard rail track in central Sheffield."

Images: RMBC / Public-i / HS2 Ltd


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