Rail link concern ‘is not founded’

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FEARS that a new high speed rail link connecting Sheffield and Leeds to London will cut through key South Yorkshire beauty spots have been condemned as ‘scaremongering’ by the county’s Passenger Transport Executive.

Protest group AGHAST – Action Groups Against High Speed Two – claimed the £34 billion network would take trains close to Monk Bretton Priory, Wombwell Woods and countryside around Rotherham, Wentworth and the Dearne Valley.

But Ben Still, the PTE’s director of strategy, said: “The claims by AGHAST are simply scaremongering.

“They are not based upon anything which has been produced by the Department for Transport.

“There are no detailed proposals for the route of the high speed rail link beyond the West Midlands as yet.

“Outline proposals are for a Y-shaped route which includes a spur through the East Midlands and South Yorkshire and onward to Leeds. However there are no details as to the exact alignment of the route.

“Despite claiming to be producing a detailed route, AGHAST has simply made some assertions that the route will pass by beauty spots and stately homes which appear to be based on no evidence whatsoever.”

Mr Still said the rail link would be an enormous asset to South Yorkshire, bringing its economy closer to that of the south east and continental Europe beyond.

He added: “The boost to the South Yorkshire economy will be counted in the billions.

“The scheme should not be endangered by the unfounded speculation of those who oppose the whole project.”

AGHAST says it is angry that official consultations on the route have already begun even though it says thousands of people don’t even realise that it will affect them, as full details have not been published.