TRANSPORT Secretary Justine Greening has approved the first phase of Britain’s planned new high speed rail network – and said it will ‘help transform the economy of Sheffield’.
Although the first section of the HS2 network will only run from London to Birmingham, the second stage involves branches north, one running to the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds and the other to Manchester.
Labour councillors have criticised the Government for not approving the whole network, including the Sheffield branch, at once and for a delay to the original completion date.
But Ms Greening said: “A new national high speed rail network will offer a step change in capacity and connectivity – and that will help transform the economy of Sheffield once again so it can compete and grow in the 21st century.
“Sheffield and South Yorkshire will benefit hugely from high speed rail. Journey times from Sheffield to central London will take just one hour 10 minutes – down from two hours seven minutes today.”
She added: “Links from South Yorkshire to key international gateways like Heathrow Airport and the Channel Tunnel will also be vastly improved. And by moving a significant proportion of current inter-city services from the railway onto new HS2 lines, there will be space for additional commuter, regional and freight services.”
Construction of the London to Birmingham stage is set to begin in 2017 and it is not due to open until 2026.
The whole network, including the northern branches, is to cost £32 billion.
Ben Still, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive director of strategy, said: “It will give a tremendous boost to the local economy.”
A report on behalf of councils on the route to Sheffield and Leeds said it would give a £4.2 billion economic boost.
But Sheffield Council Labour leader Julie Dore said: “It is not good enough to give the green light to HSR but for this to only come half way.”