New high speed rail row

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A NEW high speed rail link connecting Sheffield and Leeds to London will cut through swathes of South Yorkshire countryside – including key beauty spots, according to detailed plans due to be published for the first time.

The route north from London to Birmingham will fork off into a Y-shaped route, one branch going to Manchester and the other passing through Sheffield to Leeds.

The £34 billion network will take trains close to Monk Bretton Priory in Barnsley, a Scheduled Ancient Monument which was closed by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries.

Also affected will be Wombwell Wood, a Forestry Commission site famous for its bluebells and home to skylarks, meadow pipits, woodpeckers and kestrels.

The route for the High Speed Two link will also pass close to Rotherham, Wentworth and part of the Dearne valley as it goes north.

A protest group AGHAST – Action Groups Against High Speed Two – said consultations on the whole scheme were underway even though the Yorkshire section of the route had not been officially confirmed.

Chairman Jerry Marshall said it had been estimated that HS2 would cost every household in the country £1,000.

He said: “While the Department of Transport are currently spending millions of pounds promoting their proposal through a series of road shows, public services in Rotherham are facing swingeing cuts which include axing free parking and swimming schemes, the loss of a further 280 council jobs and closure of two Dearne youth centres.

“It is clear that the Government was hoping to limit the opposition to this massively expensive white elephant by simply not publishing the full route.”

Work on the South Yorkshire section is likely to begin in 2016 and the whole network scheduled to open around 2032.