Since the Government proposed that South Yorkshire should be served by a high speed station at Meadowhall in 2013, opinion among local stakeholders has remained divided. This has made the decision about where to best to locate an HS2 station in South Yorkshire very challenging. I would therefore like to thank Sir David Higgins, Chairman of HS2 Ltd, for the work he and HS2 Ltd have undertaken in re-appraising the options and welcome the report he has published today on this issue.
The report re-examines both the HS2 station location and route in South Yorkshire as well as alternative high speed city centre proposals at both Sheffield Midland station and the former Sheffield Victoria station.
There are two key recommendations:
That HS2 services should serve Sheffield Midland station in Sheffield city centre by running high speed ‘classic compatible’ trains into Sheffield via a dedicated link off the main high speed line. Under this proposition Sir David believes it would be possible to provide two trains per hour into Sheffield city centre and a new high speed service to Chesterfield.
That the high speed main line be moved further east, initially running parallel to the M18. Sir David suggests that this alignment not only avoids the complexities and risks associated with the Meadowhall route but also provides journey time savings to services heading to Leeds, York and Newcastle.
The report also notes that using the existing Sheffield Midland station for HS2 services opens up the possibility of running high speed trains from Sheffield to Leeds by building a link back onto the main HS2 line north of Sheffield. This link could deliver Transport for the North’s (TfN) ambition for a frequent 30-minute journey time between Leeds and Sheffield, and might also be used by Birmingham-Leeds HS2 services, allowing them to route through Sheffield. TfN are considering the Sheffield-Leeds corridor alongside other Northern Powerhouse rail schemes and I look forward to their advice on how the HS2 mainline can be utilised to help deliver their aspirations for fast and frequent city centre services across the north.
I appreciate that the recommendations set out by Sir David Higgins today will cause concern for those living along this newly proposed route and will also be unsettling for those living alongside the consulted route via Meadowhall. HS2 Ltd will now engage closely with these affected communities to provide them with the necessary support and information as quickly as possible. I would also like to reassure homeowners along both routes that they are eligible to apply to the Government’s exceptional hardship scheme from today.
Before I reach a decision about HS2 in South Yorkshire I will want to consider today’s report in detail. It is my intention to make an announcement on the HS2 Phase Two route, of which South Yorkshire is a part, later this year. Should I decide to adopt the report’s recommendations as my preferred option in South Yorkshire I will then hold a public consultation in order to allow local stakeholders and affected communities the opportunity to comment on the proposal, alongside a consultation on the property compensation and assistance schemes for the entire route.