High speed rail ‘commitment’

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TRANSPORT Minister Norman Baker has reassured Sheffield people the Government is ‘committed’ to extending high speed rail to the city.

The first section of the HS2 network from London to Birmingham has been approved by Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

But Mr Baker, the Lib Dem minister within the Department for Transport, said an Act of Parliament which will have to be passed to build the line could include ‘a commitment’ for branches to Manchester and South and West Yorkshire although they are unlikely to be built before the 2030s.

He said: “The secretary of state will look at what she can do to give some guarantee and commitment within the legislation.”

Mr Baker revealed that details of the route north from Birmingham to Sheffield and onward to Leeds would be made ‘later in the year’.

He added that improvements to the Sheffield to Manchester line, which involve extra tracks to allow more trains to run, could be included in the plan for rail improvements in the next five years.

That is also to be confirmed later this year.

Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg said the £32 billion HS2 network - which will bring journey times between London and Sheffield down from two hours and seven minutes to one hour and 10 minutes - would be ‘great news’.

But rail passengers travelling from Sheffield train station had mixed opinions about the high speed rail plans.

Reginald Dixon, aged 84, who used to live in Hunters Bar but now lives in Leicester and regularly travels to Sheffield on the existing London service, said: “It appears daft to me to spend so much money when we could update and electrify the existing system which is pretty good.”

Shaun Wong, 50, a manager for a social care service in Sheffield city centre, said: “It is going to be far too expensive for the time it will save from existing journeys.”

But architect Steve Newman, 39, who regularly travels between Sheffield and London, said: “I’d say it’s a good idea.”