High speed rail will not only quicken journeys between Sheffield and London - but could also create a direct link to the continent.
The potential European benefit of the £43 billion HS2 network, which will cut travel time between Sheffield and London to one hour and nine minutes, was revealed today.
The news follows a financial report forecasting an economic boost to Sheffield of £500m to £900m a year by 2037.
Andrew Went, lead engineer for phase two of HS2 which includes the stretch from Birmingham to Leeds via Sheffield, said: “Phase one, between London and Birmingham, includes international platforms.
“For phase two, if through consultation the view is fed back that direct services to Europe from stations further north are what people want, it is something that would be considered.
“The tracks will be built to take trains compatible with services through the Channel Tunnel and into mainland Europe.
“Changes could be made to convert stations such as Sheffield to become international terminals.”
Mr Went said a downside was international trains would have to take slots on the network allocated to domestic services.
Three trains per hour are planned to run from Sheffield to London on the new line, compared with two now.
Mr Went added any international services would not start immediately the line opens in 2032/33.
Whether such services are created would depend on demand and capacity.
Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “To be able to get a train from Sheffield into the heart of Europe - Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt - would be fantastic.”
A spokesman for Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg added: “It’s clear HS2 opens up an array of opportunities for Sheffield and other great northern cities.
“It will make it more attractive for national and international businesses to invest, open the door to local infrastructure projects such as extending Supertram, and boost our economy. HS2 will help tackle the North-South divide that’s scarred our country for too long.”
Mr Went called on people affected by the route - and other interested parties - to attend meetings and presentations, details of which will be announced.
Addressing concerns from residents who fear their homes could be demolished at Station Road, Killamarsh, and in Renishaw, Mr Went said: “We would like to see what we can do, whether we can move the line slightly.”
He added discussions were ‘ongoing’ with Chesterfield Canal Trust. Changes have already been made at Meadowhall to protect Firth Rixson and other industry.
Giant viaduct more than two miles long could carry HS2 across the Don Valley
A spectacular viaduct almost two and a half miles long, crossing Sheffield’s Don Valley, would be one of the biggest feats of engineering above ground on the proposed high speed railway.
Measuring four kilometres long and 22 metres high, the structure would run parallel to the M1 Tinsley Viaduct - and Sheffield’s high speed station would be on top of it.
Sheffield’s viaduct would be much bigger than the Medway Viaduct, the longest on the Channel Tunnel rail link, which is 1.3km long.
Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, there will be two tunnels in the Barnsley area, including one at Hoyland.
Where the line runs above the ground, large fences will be installed to reduce noise, along with ‘bunds’ - embankments - which will screen the line. Trees will be used in places.
One area where screening will be critical is in the vicinity of Hardwick Hall, near Chesterfield.
Andrew Went, lead engineer for HS2 Ltd, said: “The line will run west of the M1, where it will be screened by existing trees alongside the motorway. The railway will be slightly below ground level so it is not visible.”
Alternative plans to route a loop from the main line into Sheffield for a station at the old Victoria site next to the Wicker Arches will still be considered as part of a consultation later this year.
Mr Went said the proposals involved raising the existing Wicker Viaduct because of the need to accommodate the existing railway to Stocksbridge steelworks.
The high speed viaduct would need to be wider than the current one - so the Royal Victoria Hotel would have to be demolished.
Other notable structures on HS2 include a mile-long viaduct crossing Manchester Ship Canal.
South Yorks could be one of the ‘biggest beneficiaries’
News that HS2 could boost South Yorkshire’s economy by up to £900 million a year by 2037 has been welcomed by a Sheffield Labour MP.
Clive Betts, who represents Sheffield South East, remains in favour of the £43 billion high speed rail network despite some senior Labour Party figures querying the cost amid fears it could rise further.
The economic benefits were forecast after an independent study.
Mr Betts said: “I have always supported proposals for HS2, because I believe access to high-speed rail services will be essential to the regeneration of the economy of Sheffield and South Yorkshire. This report suggests that our area is one of the biggest beneficiaries of HS2.”
Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg said HS2 will be a ‘huge boost’.
The public’s views could lead to change on the route
Public consultation on the planned high speed rail network is due to ramp up this autumn.
A series of meetings and talks will take place across the proposed network.
HS2 Ltd said senior engineers will attend and people affected - or those who just have an interest - will be able to have queries answered.
The company will give its feedback to the Government next summer.
Changes could then be made to take concerns into account.