‘It HS2 be Sheffield city centre’ say rail bosses as Meadowhall is dropped as high-speed station site

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Sheffield’s HS2 station is set to be in the city centre, The Star has learned.

Rail bosses plan to ditch a proposed stop at Meadowhall and build it into the city’s Midland railway station instead.

The switch would save £768million, according to the Department of Transport and HS2 Ltd, which are under intense pressure to save money on the £55.7billion project.

It is understood a loop will be run off the main north-south route into Sheffield.

Sir David Higgins, chair of HS2 Ltd, was in Sheffield yesterday briefing city region leaders about the planned switch.

Sheffield Chamber president Jillian Thomas, who attended the meeting, said: “They have listened to us and that’s great - we have got what we wanted. It’s a victory for the Northern Powerhouse that recognises Sheffield’s ability to boost the economy.”

An official report, recommending the changes, is set to be published on Thursday, July 7.

When confirmed, it will be a victory for campaigners including The Star, Sheffield City Council and hundreds of businesses and organisations.

Coun Julie Dore, leader of the council, said: “This is fantastic news for Sheffield and the City Region. We are delighted the government has concluded that a city centre station location is the best option. We have been making this case for years because analysis shows it will create thousands more jobs than the Meadowhall option, and we are just delighted that all our hard work looks like it has finally paid off.

“At a time of great uncertainty following last week’s referendum, this is a real boost for Sheffield and the City Region. A high speed rail line running into the centre of Sheffield will also play a huge part in helping us to regenerate and transform the city centre.

“Sheffield has really pulled together and spoken with one united voice on this issue. We couldn’t have achieved this without the local business community and the Star’s wonderful campaign”.

The move maximises the economic impact of high speed rail. Figures showed that, compared to Meadowhall, it would create 6,500 more jobs, 1,000 more homes and pump up to £5bn into the economy.

It would also avoid the need for a colossal two-mile viaduct on fractured rock at Meadowhall.

And Midland Station offers better connections with the rest of Sheffield City Region.

The switch follows a review of proposed sites announced in The Star last month.

Any change would have to be approved by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, with a final announcement expected in autumn.

A National Audit Office report, published today, states HS2 is facing cost pressures and the opening of Phase 1, from London to Birmingham, could be pushed back by up to a year.

In March, the Cabinet Secretary asked the Infrastructure and Projects Authority to assess options for significant savings from High Speed 2, without making major changes.

The authority, working with the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd, has identified around £6.2billion of potential savings, including changing the route.

The NAO report states: “The department and HS2 Ltd are exploring options to locate the HS2 stop in the city centre which they believe could save around £768m, and make a significant contribution to meeting the affordability challenge for phase 2b.

“HS2 Ltd’s analysis suggests that this will not have a substantial negative impact on the overall benefit-cost ratio for the programme.

“It could, however, mean that a different set of communities will be affected by the plans.”

Ben Ruse, head of news at HS2, said: “We can’t comment on speculation.”