Friday, February 19, 2016

News: Economics to guide HS2


Sheffield Chamber is calling on businesses from the Sheffield city region to back its call for an independent economic review into the decision on the location of the proposed South Yorkshire HS2 station.

Construction on HS2, the high speed North to South rail link, 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.

Following the recent spending review, the Government pushed back a decision on the route through the Sheffield city region to autumn 2016. A location at Meadowhall was chosen in 2013 and is still the Government's preferred choice.

A summit hosted by Sheffield Chamber yesterday heard how it important it was to get the location right for the "once in a generation investment" and that it should be done quickly.

Richard Wright, told the audience of more than 200 guests at Sheffield City Hall: "HS2 will, without doubt, have enormous implications for the future economy of the region. We've got to get behind the right decision, because, while we're bickering, the final decision will be made later this year. We can't afford to end up with the wrong location.

"We know there are sensitivities and differing views around the region but must not lose sight of our ambition to be a significant contributor to the Northern Powerhouse and the need to attract inward investment – and the station location will affect that."

He added that it will be down to businesses in the city region to come together to show Government the strength of feeling, stating that it "shouldn't be about one set of stakeholders arguing with others."

The Chamber is set to write to to Chancellor George Osborne and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to call for an independent economic review into the decision on station location.

Jillian Thomas, president of Sheffield Chamber, added: "This has got to be down to economics, not down to politics. It's to make sure that we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in the situation of getting this right so we can create the future for our children and create an opportunity for us in our retirement.

"We cannot put politics in the way. This has got to have joined up thinking in connection with HS3 and the Northern Powerhouse. The decision, as far as the Chamber is concerned, is purely on the basis of economics for the region."

Similarly, the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has so far declined to commit to backing a specific site for a South Yorkshire station and instead has reiterated its stance that the location should be based on achieving the greatest economic benefit.

Rothbiz reported first in December that Sheffield Council is using recently commissioned reports to show that a city centre location for a proposed South Yorkshire HS2 station would maximise the economic growth in the North. Council officials believe that reports indicate that a city centre location at Victoria would deliver 6,500 more jobs, 1,000+ new homes, and £2bn - £5bn more GVA.

Since the initial decision was made, plans for HS3 - a TransNorth high speed rail link connecting the North's great cities - have been developed. Backers of a city centre HS2 station state that it is illogical for HS2 to go to an out of town parkway station at Meadowhall whilst TransNorth goes to the city centre.

For Rotherham, the latest reports show that a station at Victoria would add a further five minutes to journeys to connect to HS2 from Rotherham. Rotherham town centre is just six minutes by rail from the interchange at Meadowhall and a number of transport connections exist, or are currently under construction (heavy rail, tram train, BRT). A potential rail link to Rotherham via a "New Victoria" station adjacent to the HS2 station has been discussed.

With a proposed station at Meadowhall, analysis from KPMG in 2013 showed that Rotherham could increase its annual economic output by between £131.7m and £272.12m due to the investment in HS2 and the re-design of the existing railway infrastructure. The figures represent an increase of between 2.3% and 4.8% of Rotherham's GDP - the eleventh highest percentage increase of all 235 UK areas in the analysis.

In 2014, Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd, reiterated his view that Sheffield Meadowhall is the right answer for the South Yorkshire hub on the proposed HS2 line but admitted that the final decision is "finely balanced."

On the issue of South Yorkshire, the Transport Secretary said at the end of 2015: "Sheffield Meadowhall was the Government's preferred station location in the Phase Two route consultation. The evidence continues to suggest that this is likely to be the best way of serving the wider South Yorkshire region and we are working with the National Infrastructure Commission and Transport for the North on the possible interfaces with Northern Powerhouse rail. However, we acknowledge there are arguments in favour of a city centre location and continue to examine relevant analysis.

"We continue to make good progress on our plans for the rest of HS2 Phase Two serving Manchester, East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Leeds and will make a decision on the route in autumn 2016."

HS2 Ltd website

Images: Sheffield Chamber


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