High-speed rail is vital, but ‘20 years too late’ according to key South Yorkshire figures backing the scheme.
Former Sheffield engineer Coun Bob Johnson – Doncaster Council cabinet member for regeneration and growth and managing director of Rotherham recycling firm Envirofeed – said the region will need to see more than a short-term boost from the planned high-speed rail line linking London and the north, via Sheffield.
Speaking at the launch of a report into HS2’s growth strategy at Sheffield’s University Technical College yesterday, he said: “We’re about 20 years behind. We have 20 years work in hand for engineers which is fantastic.
“The industry does need that. A lot of firms will have to double their workforce in the next 10 years with work in hand for 20 years.
“However, with Spain and France’s high-speed rails the majority of the impact was within a 10 miles radius of the station.
“How are we going to make sure the long term economic benefits from 2025-30 actually happen in the north of England?”
Transport minister Robert Goodwill, agreed the Government had dragged its heels.
He said: “We have prevaricated for too long.
“It’s not just high-speed rail, but over nuclear power and investment in electrification of railways, which makes it even more important now.
“This project will contribute to the renaissance of manufacturing in cities like Sheffield in particular.
“It’s about getting people ready. It’s about getting businesses ready.”
The report outlined the need for ‘locally-led’ delivery boards to be set up this year, as well as collaboration between organisations and businesses.
It also said each station would need to come up with a ‘growth strategy’ in 2014.
There was also debate over the HS2 station’s location, with Coun Julie Dore, Sheffield Council leader, stressing it should be in the city centre – not Meadowhall where it is currently planned – to create 6,000 more jobs.
But Mr Goodwill said: “Instead of going past your front door, you want it through your front room.”
Work could start in Sheffield as early as 2021.