The recently announced proposal that the South Yorkshire section of HS2 should be rerouted has caused understandable anger in the communities that would be affected.
All of a sudden, people find their homes up for demolition to make way for the new route. Not only that, the change is announced late in the consultation process.
Even worse, further examination of the detail reveals this new route will not necessarily offer direct access to HS2 for people living in South Yorkshire.
The East Midlands will get its station and so will Leeds, but Sheffield will have to make use of a link to these two stops. This will make use of fast trains, but not the high-speed trains that will run on the HS2 track. Effectively, there will be no direct high-speed link between South Yorkshire and Birmingham, or between South Yorkshire and Leeds.
The original route offered a direct stop in South Yorkshire at Meadowhall. This location is perfect in many ways; it links in well with the whole of the sub-region and is close to key economic growth areas, such as the Advanced Manufacturing Centre. It was supported by three of the four South Yorkshire boroughs and by the majority of MPs. The projected economic impact of a station at Meadowhall is broadly comparable with that forecast for the Sheffield city centre option favoured by Sheffield Council with a route through the city centre.
Now I can’t help feeling we’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory here. We have been downgraded; rather than a proper station stop at Meadowhall, it is proposed that Sheffield gets a link to the Midland station, but this link will not provide direct access to the HS2 network. The new proposal also offers a half-baked promise to consider a parkway stop either north of Barnsley or south of Doncaster.
To put it bluntly, all the effort put in to getting a HS2 station in Sheffield has failed. Instead, we have gone backwards; we have come off second best, once again. No HS2 for Sheffield and maybe not South Yorkshire, except at arms’ length.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. Meadowhall is still an option in the next round of consultation for HS2.
We should fight now to secure proper access to HS2 in South Yorkshire by supporting a station at Meadowhall. I hope local people and businesses will do exactly that and that Sheffield City Council will reconsider its opposition; the risk otherwise is that our area will be left out in the cold.
We cannot afford to let that happen.