Controversy over high speed railway network

Artist's impression of high speed rail train
Artist's impression of high speed rail train
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HIGH speed rail is set to ‘revolutionise’ train travel according to the Government – and will substantially reduce journey times from Sheffield to London, as well as to Leeds and the East and West Midlands.

The £33 billion project is also set to create thousands of jobs in construction and attract new business to areas with stations, such as Sheffield.

Woodhouse ditch - threatened by HS2 rail line

Woodhouse ditch - threatened by HS2 rail line

The project has the support of all mainstream political parties.

But concerns have already been raised by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust – which fears 12 wildlife habitats could be damaged – while the National Trust is unhappy about the line running close to Hardwick Hall.

Further concerns have been raised by engineering company Firth Rixson, whose Meadowhall base is directly on the route.

Peter Bland, chief financial officer at Firth Rixson, said: “We support high speed rail and believe it will have important benefits, but we are not in favour of the route.

Andrew Cook, chairman of William Cook holdings steel firm

Andrew Cook, chairman of William Cook holdings steel firm

“Fortunately, this is just the beginning of a long planning and consultation process. Construction is not expected to commence for at least 10 years, and alternative routes will be examined.

“Firth Rixson has received strong assurances from Sheffield Council and within Government that a solution will be found.”

Mr Bland added: “It is business as usual at the Meadowhall site.”

Meanwhile, Gordon Millward, South Yorkshire regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “To see those benefits brought to fruition we must wait 20 years and contend with disruption across great swathes of the landscape, including land occupied by some of our most profitable companies.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

However, residents on Greasbro Road, Tinsley, have welcomed the chance their homes will be bought under compulsory purchase orders for the line.

They say the area is blighted by traffic and pollution, and would like to move.

Transport Secretary and Derbyshire Dales MP Patrick McLoughlin said it is ‘inevitable’ there will be objections to the route, which will be considered during the consultation process.

FOR - Nick Clegg Deputy PM:

IT WILL make Sheffield and the north of England even more attractive for investors if they know they can get from one part of the country, from our capital, to other parts of the country very quickly.

Sometimes people feel that somehow all the big decisions are taken in London, and the north is forgotten.

I don’t think you should underestimate the huge positive knock on effect it will have if people in Sheffield and the north feel that they are as accessible, if you like, to the great humming economic engine of the City of London and other parts of the more prosperous south.

If you want to start bringing the country together, so that we share together in prosperity, you’ve got to start healing the north-south divide.

At the same time we will improve rail links from other parts of Sheffield and, indeed, the tram link.

AGAINST - Andrew Cook, businessman:

High speed rail is little more than a pipe dream.

Improvements already going ahead to the existing line will bring the journey time down below two hours and I don’t want to get to London any quicker than an hour and a half.

I would rather see the existing line further upgraded rather than have this vast sum of money spent on a high speed rail network.

Time spent travelling on trains is not simply spent sitting staring into space.

People in business use it to continue with their work – I certainly make good use of it.

Having a train that is much faster than at present will mean that you cannot settle down to doing much work while on board because there isn’t enough time.

You see this on a TGV train in France when everyone is sat there in suspended animation for their time onboard.

Do you think the high speed line will be good for South Yorkshire ?