Wednesday, December 14, 2016

News: Higgins explains South Yorkshire HS2 changes

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Sir David Higgins, non-executive chair of High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, has explained the reasons behind his proposed changes to the route of the HS2 line through South Yorkshire to a group of influential MPs.

The Transport Committee held a one-off evidence session about progress with HS2 and next steps after the Government gave a clear indication that the £55.7 billion project will reach the North and that it is minded to accept the recommendations from July as the Government's preferred option.

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.

Sir David discussed issues faced on the route including station locations for Leeds and the East Midlands, adding: "Sheffield has been without a doubt the hardest of any solution because, the more and more work we did on the proposed Sheffield Meadowhall station, the more difficulties we found. It was a huge civil structure, 4km long, 25m up in the air, and 60m wide in places and so a lot of people came out and started criticising the size of the structure and the impact it would have on the environment and community. Also the more work we did on the traffic calculations, the more complicated the area became.

"Not only the local authority but the Sheffield business community - and Sheffield was the biggest market - consistently said that it didn't support at all, Sheffield Meadowhall, because it wasn't Sheffield city centre.

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"If we look at the major market in South Yorkshire it was Sheffield, and Chesterfield. It wasn't Rotherham, and Doncaster of course has the existing East Coat line. When we looked at it, they were saying that the idea of spending 20 minutes getting to Meadowhall, an inconvenient station, 20m up in the air, we want one in the city centre, that's where business is and that's where we want to go to.

"We listened to Sheffield, the biggest market, we looked at the benefit that Doncaster gets in any case with the new Intercity Express services on the East Coast and then we listened to Wakefield and Barnsley and the area of Rotherham and looked at where we could put a Parkway in and pick up those people best serviced by that."

Local MP, John Healey, whose constituency includes affected areas of Bramley and Ravenfield, raised the matter of a parkway station directly with HS2 after the announcement in July but any study would need to be commissioned by the Government. The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling recently said that he will ask HS2 to study possible sites and report back to him by early next year.

Higgins told MPs this week: "We are looking at a parkway on this new line which would be between Wakefield, Doncaster and Rotherham. That will open up to a lot of people who have no services whatsoever at the moment.

"It is extremely close to the A1/M1, which as time goes on is becoming more and more of a critical corridor for access. Being able to have a parkway there that would be able to take traffic off that motorway I think in time will be seen as very attractive."

On the discussions around getting the HS2 line into Sheffield, Higgins explained: "It took a long time to debate with Sheffield to convince them that we couldn't put a high speed line through Sheffield city centre itself because of flooding. We could never secure the line going through Sheffield Midland or Sheffield Victoria. Victoria just didn't work without massive expenditure to make it flood proof - you'd have to pay a massive bill to box through the area there.

"It caused us to go back and look at the original schemes and one always had a line that was more direct, and certainly cheaper, that went further East between Doncaster and Rotherham and that's what we came down to.

"The M18 route is some £900m cheaper, it has quicker journey times North to Leeds, and it allows for a 9km spur line to come into Sheffield Midland which is where the connections come through from other services East-West.

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"Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce have been very supportive of that solution in terms of providing an 85 minute service through to London and the potential for a half hour service to Leeds.

"It's certainly a better deal for tax-payers and it's certainly what the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce really wanted so they were very very strongly opposed to Meadowhall and wouldn't support it at all but were very strongly supportive of a station right in the city centre."

Higgins added that the new route would see "66% less properties demolished, 56% less residential properties, 86% less commercial properties demolished. The Meadowhall route was going through a heavily-industrialised, difficult, congested valley and we were destroying a lot of employment."

Consultation on the route through South Yorkshire continues before a final decision is made next year. Council leader, Chris Read told a council meeting last week that Rotherham Council would put a strong submission to the route consultation as it continues to back previous plans of a station at Meadowhall.

Images: parliament.uk


1 comments:

Anonymous,  December 14, 2016 at 2:48 PM  

Having a ticket machine now in Rotherham station would be a great start to any improvements.

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