Thursday, September 7, 2017

News: Barron criticises HS2 over "wobbly" data

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Sir Kevin Barron, the MP for Rother Valley, has continued to criticise HS2 Ltd and the Government over changes made to the high speed route through South Yorkshire, stating that the decisions were made based on data that is "wobbly at best."

The MP, who says his constituency will suffer the impact of the proposed route between Birmingham and Leeds but receive none of the benefits of a direct stop, told a parliamentary debate that it was obvious that the decision has not been based on any consensus.

During the recent HS2 consultation, 271 respondents pledged support for the new M18 route, whilst 4,157 were against it. The Government is justifying its decision based on demand; the needs of Sheffield and the wider region; connectivity with the existing rail network and the wider transport network; topography, urban density and the environment; and cost.

In a Westminster debate on the HS2 route, Barron explained: "Last year, when I first questioned HS2 at the consultation meetings here in Parliament, Sir David Higgins [executive chairman of HS2] said the development would not go ahead at Sheffield Meadowhall because there was a lack of consensus, so I asked him politely, "If there is no consensus on the new line on the eastern M18 route, which goes through my constituency, ​will that not go ahead?" He would not answer me.

"I said to him, "You don't want to answer that question, do you?", and he just shook his head and nodded up and down. Of course he did not want to answer that question. There has been very little consensus throughout the HS2 process."

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The MP discussed the data used in comparing the two routes - Meadowhall and the M18 - and the figures used, especially regarding the impact on property. He said: "I believe that the decision is being based on data that, to put it kindly, are wobbly at best."

HS2 Ltd compared an unpublished refined route through Meadowhall with the new route on the M18 / Eastern alignment. Examples from areas like Bramley and Mexborough have been used to highlight that many more properties will be affected on the new route.

Barron added that he "had a battle over issues of property impact — that is a nice way of saying it" with Higgins and HS2 and was told that "The number of properties affected does not form part of the route decision-making process."

The MP concluded: "How can the fact that 600 properties in one village will be affected by HS2 not play a role in the location of the track?

"I have been very positive in this House about HS2, but I have to say that I am now a little tempted to change my mind. Last year I was at the Broadlands estate in Bramley with three HS2 engineers. We stood next to the M18 and they tried to convince me that HS2 could get within 30 metres of the motorway and the houses. HS2 has implications for hundreds of houses on that estate. Like my constituent, I would just get out now."

In HS2 Ltd's advice to Government published in July it stated regarding the Broadlands Estate: "Based on the current stage of design, it should be noted that HS2 Ltd do not expect to have to demolish any property on this estate.

"We will be undertaking further work during the EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] process to establish the impacts of construction and operation of HS2 on those living in this and other areas. The potential for demolitions is based on the known earthworks for the proposed alignment at this early stage of the process.

"Following a route decision, this is likely to change with ongoing design development, construction planning and environmental assessment. For example, demolitions resulting from ancillary works, mitigation and realignment of existing infrastructure (such as roads and railways) are not included at this stage."

HS2 are hosting a number of events in South Yorkshire to share the latest details about its plans for building and running Phase 2b. Attendees will be able to find out how the design for the route will be developed and the environmental impacts assessed.

Events are being held:

- Tuesday September 12 at Dearne Valley Leisure Centre, Mexborough, 2pm to 8pm
- Wednesday September 13 at Best Western Consort Hotel, Thurcroft, 2pm to 8pm
- Thursday September 14 at Best Western Aston Hall Hotel, Aston, 2pm to 8pm

Images: HS2 Ltd / Google Maps


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