All change to save Sheffield steelworks

Nick Clegg MP visiting Firth Rixson whwre he met some of the apprentices picture shows...  Brian March explains  a piece of measuring equipment to Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg MP visiting Firth Rixson whwre he met some of the apprentices picture shows... Brian March explains a piece of measuring equipment to Nick Clegg
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Behind-the-scenes lobbying by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has saved a Sheffield steelworks from being bulldozed to make way for high speed rail.

Firth Rixson’s Meadowhall site stood in the way of the initial proposed route between London and Leeds.

Hundreds of people work at the plant, which manufactures focused forgings in nickel-based, titanium and steel alloys for mining, aerospace, power generation and defence industries.

But the steelworks, visited by Sheffield Hallam MP Mr Clegg last year, lies a few hundred yards from the proposed Sheffield High Speed Station at Meadowhall.

A source close to Mr Clegg said: “Firms like Firth Rixson are exactly the type of companies Nick wants to encourage so he was concerned about the potential impact of the railway.

“From the moment this issue came up, Nick was incredibly strong in his view that Firth Rixson should be taken into account.

“The whole point of high speed rail is to help rebalance the economy and reduce the north-south divide by helping businesses – not putting a major employer at risk.”

Changes to the proposed line are set to involve creating a tighter curve for the line near Meadowhall so it avoids the steelworks.

The change will mean the maximum speed of trains being reduced from around 190mph to 120mph on the short stretch.

“The alteration will add a couple of minutes to the journeys of non-stopping trains but because most will be calling at the Meadowhall station, it shouldn’t have much of an effect,” the source said.

The changes are set to be confirmed by Transport Secretary and Derbyshire Dales MP Patrick McLoughlin in an announcement to Parliament during the next few days.

Minor changes have been made to other sections of the planned high speed line further south.

But no changes have been made in south east Sheffield or parts of north Derbyshire such as Killamarsh, where a small number of homes are under threat.

When details of the proposed line were announced, Peter Bland, chief financial officer at Firth Rixson, said: “We support high speed rail and believe it will have important benefits, but we are not in favour of the route.”