Concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of a proposed £1 billion railway line which would bring high speed trains into Sheffield city centre, writes Richard Marsden.
Sheffield Council and business leaders are urging the Government to build a ‘loop’ line off the main £43 billion HS2 high speed route, which would run close to the M1 and past Meadowhall shopping centre.
Ministers want to site Sheffield’s high speed station at Meadowhall, on the main line, and are proposing to pump tens of millions into improving links from the site the city centre.
But the council is pushing alternative proposals to locate it at the old Victoria Station site and which, it claims, would generate £5 billion of economic benefits, compared to about £2 billion from Meadowhall.
But today The Star can reveal the impact of a ‘loop’ route from the main line to Victoria, as detailed in engineering reports for HS2 Limited, the company in charge of building the new line.
The railway leaves the proposed HS2 main line east of Woodhouse and heads into Sheffield alongside the current Worksop to Sheffield line.
It runs over the Wicker Arches, through a 2.3-mile tunnel beneath Shirecliffe and Longley to Ecclesfield, before heading over a 110-metre viaduct to rejoin the main line near Hesley Wood.
* 41 houses would have to be demolished, mostly at Handsworth;
* The Holiday Inn Royal Victoria, a Grade II listed Victorian building and Sheffield’s oldest hotel, could be knocked down to make way for the station concourse;
* The Grade II* listed Wicker Viaduct could be massively changed, its height raised from nine metres to 14 metres;
* The line would pass close to homes between Shiregreen and Ecclesfield. Houses on Cross Hill, Ecclesfield, could lose their gardens;
* Loss of ancient woodland at Ecclesfield which HS2 admits would ‘have a major visual and landscape impact’.
Hermann Beck, owner of the Holiday Inn Royal Victoria Hotel – which dates to 1848 and is Sheffield’s oldest hotel – said: “I am surprised and concerned.
“We are the landowners and this is not a small business. We have 100 people working here. I am also surprised that nobody felt it was appropriate to contact us.
“The Royal Victoria Hotel is the oldest in Sheffield and, at one time, was the only major hotel in Sheffield. Every reigning monarch since Victoria has stayed here, including Elizabeth II when she was a princess.
“The hotel received its royal prefix when it was visited by King Edward VII.
“The old Victoria Station had seven platforms and a concourse, and was linked to the hotel, so I can’t see why we couldn’t be retained with the new station.”
Heritage campaigners are horrified about the proposals.
Howard Greaves, of Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society, said: “This is like the issue of the Edwardian Wing of Jessop Hospital – the Grade II-listed building being demolished by Sheffield University – all over again.
“The Wicker viaduct is an important historic gateway into Sheffield. If they are going to plonk a monster structure on top of it.
“I would also be very much against the loss of the Royal Victoria Hotel.”
David Blunkett, Labour MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, which includes Shiregreen, said: “I understand entirely why the council would like to see the HS2 loop into the city centre, although the additional cost is so eyewatering it is not surprising the initial decision is to use the Meadowhall site.
“I am concerned there should not be wholesale disruption to residential areas, That is the disadvantage of the proposals to run a loop which would inevitably affect very badly the north of the city.”
Coun Leigh Bramall, council cabinet member for business, skills and development, said: “High speed rail is 20 years away and there is still a lot of work to be done on this, including consultation with affected residents and businesses, and confirming the exact route.
“However, we are clear Sheffield City Region needs HS2 to be located where it will deliver the maximum impact for new jobs and growth, whilst minimising any negative aspects.
“There are many examples of a listed building being integrated into a rail station, such as London’s St Pancras, so while the Government paper on HS2 does include an option to demolish the Royal Victoria Hotel, we believe there would be ways to avoid this.
“The Government consultation on the station location is now open, so Sheffield residents and businesses can get involved in the discussion.
“There is a lot more work to be done on this, but we’re working hard to make sure the station, wherever it’s located brings the greatest economic benefits to the city region.”