Wednesday, September 14, 2016

News: MPs question HS2 route move in South Yorkshire

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An influential group of MPs that scrutinise the value for money of public spending has questioned HS2 Ltd's decision to propose a new route for the high speed line through Rotherham.

Given a funding envelope of £55.7 billion in 2015 prices, the new North-South link should reach Birmingham in 2026 and Manchester and Leeds by 2033.

The South Yorkshire HS2 station location was initially chosen as Meadowhall but a 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.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee concludes that the impact of route changes is not clear and urges the Department of Transport (DfT) to explain the basis for its final decision when it is announced later this year.

The report states: "The cost estimates for phase 2 are still volatile and currently exceed available funding by £7 billion. We remain to be convinced that proposed savings of £9 billion can be made without adversely affecting the benefits of the programme. HS2 Ltd's recent recommendation to the Department that the planned High Speed 2 station in South Yorkshire be moved from Meadowhall to Sheffield Midland station is one example of the significant uncertainty that remains about plans for phase 2."



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The report stresses that the impact of proposed route changes in South Yorkshire on passengers, on local communities and on growth and regeneration is not clear. The 2016 route east of Rotherham would affect Wales, Aston, Ulley, Thurcroft, Bramley, Hellaby, Ravenfield and Hooton Roberts.

Five high speed trains per hour were initially planned to stop at Meadowhall but only one or two high speed trains per hour are planned to stop at Sheffield Midland.

The committee's report adds that "The new proposed route will affect groups and communities that were not expecting to be affected under the previous plans for the South Yorkshire route. Currently, the scale of disruption and the impact on passengers is yet to be determined. The Department told us that there were a range of regeneration benefits that could be realised under the new proposal but did not provide details of them or a quantification of the benefits."

Simon Kirby, the chief executive of HS2 Ltd who is leaving the project to join Rolls-Royce told the MPs: "We had the station at Meadowhall that delivered the requirements of HS2, but we are very mindful of the different needs of the city and the region, and it was a very difficult decision, from the route perspective.

"We have done further work, and have come up with what we believe is a good recommendation: to run classic compatible services into Sheffield Midland, providing two trains an hour; a high-speed link to Chesterfield; and the option of a further service up into Leeds."

At the same evidence gathering session in July, Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary at the DFT, explained: "Cost was not the primary issue here. The primary issue was how to deliver the best service, or the best option, for South Yorkshire, given that there had been strong views there, notably in Sheffield."

He added: "The proposal, as put forward by HS2 Ltd, offers some significant benefits. It offers the cost savings that have been identified. It also offers a means of serving Sheffield city centre directly, with a possible option for station stops also in Chesterfield, so there are potential benefits for that area. There is also, I believe, the possibility of some journey time savings for serving Leeds. The journeys into Sheffield city centre would be very slightly longer than via Meadowhall, which was the previous suggestion, but without the need for an interchange.

"There are a range of benefits. I have to say that I have not seen evidence myself that there is scope for less by way of benefits, in terms of regeneration and ancillary benefits; if anything, I think perhaps that may point the other way."
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "The Government has promised significant benefits to taxpayers in return for their investment in HS2, expected to run to more than £55 billion. Despite this, Parliament and the public are still in the dark about crucial details – not least when the railway will open, how much it is expected to cost and precisely where it will go.

"Lack of clarity over plans for HS2 in South Yorkshire highlights what is at stake for communities and local economies, and why government must explain its intentions and the basis for its decisions in a transparent manner.

"The public must be confident the grand vision for HS2 does not blind the Government to the finer points which have implications for many people's lives now and in the decades to come.

"Similarly, local authorities must know central government's intentions to ensure they can plan effectively for regeneration and maximise the potential for growth near HS2 stations.

"The Government is due to announce its decision on the 2b route this autumn and we urge it to seize this opportunity to address the concerns set out in our report."

Images: HS2 Ltd


1 comments:

Mr me September 14, 2016 at 10:43 AM  

Will never happen,they cant even get size of town in perspective on there maps,Look at Barnsley on there its about 4 times bigger tgan Rotherham!Pmsl

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