Centre of power

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Strong northern cities boosted by their own version of the Underground were vital to taking on the might of London, Lord Jim O’Neill said in a speech - which appeared to make the case for an HS2 station in Sheffield city centre.

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, and Northern Powerhouse Minister, said impressive expansion in China and India was driven by the growth of their cities.

HS2 station in Sheffield city centre by HLM Architects

HS2 station in Sheffield city centre by HLM Architects

And countries with powerful economies, such as the US, Germany and China, all had “a lot of important cities, whereas the UK is dominated by London.”

In a speech at Sheffield University, he coined the phrase ‘Man-Sheff-Leeds-Pool’ - a place with about 10million people, the same as London.

He added: “London has a transport system that links people over a very large area. Our ambition is to somehow reproduce the connectivity of the Tube.

“If we want to benefit from the number of people in the Northern Powerhouse we have to make sure the transport system allows them to get around a lot more efficiently and cost effectively than they have in our lifetimes.”

He also said Transport for the North had been set up specifically so plans to improve connectivity in the Northern Powerhouse were not run from London.

Transport for the North is responsible for ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ - or ‘HS3’ - a plan for up to six trains an hour taking just 30 minutes between the centres of Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.

Its proposals make use of ‘HS2 wherever possible’ as ‘the most economically advantageous and least disruptive solution’.

HS2 could form the Sheffield-Leeds leg of HS3 - but only if the station is in Sheffield city centre.

The Star is campaigning for a central station to maximise the economic benefit of high speed rail and a switch from the Government’s choice of Meadowhall.

The plan is supported by Prof Sir Keith Burnett, the vice chancellor of the University of Sheffield.

Earlier, he told The Star: “From the point of view of staff and students of the University of Sheffield, the university continues to support calls for the HS2 Sheffield city centre location.”