Sheffield’s civic leaders have called on doubters of the HS2 high speed rail scheme to get behind the £43 billion project - despite a slight fall in predicted economic benefits.
Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore is among the leaders of Britain’s eight biggest cities who have signed a letter to Labour’s shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh, criticising the party’s ‘wavering’ stance.
Although high speed rail was first proposed by the last Labour government, some of the party’s senior figures at Westminster, as high up as Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, have voiced concern about the cost.
Meanwhile, a new report commissioned by the Government has downgraded the predicted economic benefit of HS2 from £2.50 to £2.30 for every £1 spent.
In a letter to Ms Creagh, leaders of the ‘core cities’ - including Coun Dore - describe Labour’s new stance on HS2 as ‘an immediate issue of urgent concern to us all’ and a standpoint that has ‘not helped our cause’.
“HS2 is the single most important infrastructure project currently planned in terms of bringing jobs and growth to all city regions,” the letter adds.
Sheffield Council chief executive John Mothersole added: “Just upgrading the existing rail network would cost £20 billion and cause 14 years of delay and weekend closures on routes such as the Midland Main Line.
“The case for HS2 remains very strong. This is a choice between whether we see the cities of England recognised for their economic growth potential or left to continue muddling along as before.”
Labour Shadow Chancellor Mr Balls said: “We’ve got to make sure these benefits are real and that this is the best way to spend a very large amount of money.”
If the line goes ahead, ministers have promised big improvements to local commuter rail services in areas including Sheffield, using released capacity on existing lines.