Friday, March 10, 2017

News: Rotherham registers strong opposition to HS2 route revisions

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"Rotherham is not served at all by the proposals, but suffers the devastating impact of the line." That's the official response from Rotherham Council on the revised HS2 route through South Yorkshire.

The Government is minded to approve a new proposed route between Birmingham and Leeds, switching from a route into a new station at Sheffield Meadowhall with a new option that 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.

Consultation ended yesterday on the HS2 line to Leeds that would travel east of Rotherham following the M1 and M18 before heading through the Dearne Valley.

The reply from Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council outlines the reasons why his authority continues to back the Meadowhall option and not support the proposal to amend the route.

The response covers costs, demand, environment, connectivity and the needs of the whole Sheffield city region. It concludes that the Sheffield Midland spur option:

- Will mean fewer, slower and smaller trains for the city region resulting in 71 per cent less seats per hour for the City Region and journey times 25% slower than the Meadowhall option;
- Offers vastly inferior connectivity with trains only connecting Sheffield with East Midlands Hub and London. There will be no connectivity to Birmingham, Leeds, York and the North East as there would be from Meadowhall;
- Brings significantly fewer direct economic benefits. 30% fewer jobs will be created than with the Meadowhall option;
- Constrains economic growth opportunities. The economic benefit to the Sheffield City Region is nearly 40% lower than for the Meadowhall option;
- Costs more. The claimed £1bn saving provided by the Sheffield Midland spur option, quickly dissolves away when the full cost of delivering the proposal is exposed. Using HS2's own figures, the reality is that the Sheffield Meadowhall high speed station option is no more expensive to build than the Sheffield Midland spur option, and will be considerably cheaper to operate.

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Cllr. Read said: "We have said throughout that if the government is to build this major piece of national infrastructure they should site the station at Meadowhall, in terms of the benefits that this would bring to Rotherham and the wider City Region, and have made this view clear to the government and HS2 Ltd.

"However, the M18 / spur proposal that HS2 now favours would mean a second class service for Rotherham. For the City Region as a whole it would mean fewer, slower and smaller trains, resulting in 71 per cent fewer seats and journey times 25 per cent slower than the Meadowhall station option. And because it means a slower, smaller service, the spur proposal also means 30% fewer jobs and lower economic benefits.

"Through the work we have commissioned alongside our colleagues in Doncaster, we also know that the spur proposal will be no cheaper than the Meadowhall option, and will actually be much more expensive to run - £1.7 billion over the lifetime of the scheme. For residents whose homes are threatened by the spur proposal, our analysis shows the most recent HS2 proposals to be doubly insulting.

"We have made our views known as part of this consultation and our representation to Government seeks to get the best deal for Rotherham, and for the region. It is essential that the government re-thinks this proposal before it makes a mistake of historic proportions."
Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce have also put forward its support for the original Meadowhall route in its consultation. The business representative group makes similar points on frequency and costs and the lack of links to places like Leeds without a commitment and funding for a Northern Loop from Sheffield back to the main HS2 line.

The Chamber concludes: "We are extremely opposed to the currently proposed Sheffield branch line option without modification particularly as this would see the City Region having all the negatives of the line running through the area without any benefits that would accrue from having a proper station on the main line.

"The strength of feeling is such that should the current proposal stand we would very reluctantly be forced to withdraw our support for the whole project."

Images: HS2 Ltd


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