HS2 SUMMIT: Hundreds urge Government to choose station based on jobs

Richard Wright, of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce at the HS2 Summit. Picture: Andrew Roe
Richard Wright, of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce at the HS2 Summit. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Two hundred organisations have urged Government to think again on Sheffield’s HS2 station - and make a decision based on the economy and jobs.

They signed a letter calling for an independent report on the best site - and pledged to back its findings - at a summit organised by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

Justin Urquhart Stewart talks at the HS2 Summit. Picture: Andrew Roe

Justin Urquhart Stewart talks at the HS2 Summit. Picture: Andrew Roe

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The event at the City Hall was part of a Star-backed campaign for an HS2 stop in the city centre. Figures show it would create 6,500 more jobs than the Government’s choice of Meadowhall.

Chamber chief Richard Wright called for a report by the Independent Transport Commission on “the greatest economic impact and return on investment.”

He added: “We could get this horribly wrong. Local authorities and MPs are fighting like cats and dogs. Business can rise above that, but we have to do it quickly. If we can get enough business strength behind this they can’t ignore us, there would be too much political fall out.

Speakers at the HS2 Summit. Picture: Andrew Roe

Speakers at the HS2 Summit. Picture: Andrew Roe

“The potential extra cost is insignificant against the total cost of HS2. But we need to put the confusion behind us.”

The letter will be sent to Chancellor George Osborne and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. A decision on the route from Birmingham to Leeds is expected to be made in summer.

Mr Wright said the chamber was always focused on the economy and had supported the closure of Sheffield Airport to make way for the development of Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster.

He added: “Across the region there are a lot of different opinions. We have somehow got to get to the end of that, a final decision will be made in a few months.

“It should be based on jobs and our position in the Northern Powerhouse, we want to be a proper partner. If we get it wrong we’ll all be walking round with less money in our pockets.

“I believe the economic case for the city centre is overwhelming.”

Edward Highfield, director of Creative Sheffield, the city council’s business development department, said: “From discussions with HS2 it’s clear the public and private sector need to stand together.”

Henk Bouman, of the Independent Transport Commission, told the audience that Lille in France had benefited from a high speed rail station after its five core cities agreed to come together.

He added: “Technically we can build anything, that should follow the economic decision.”

Gerald Jennings, president of Leeds Chamber, warned a perception Sheffield was “not sure” about HS2 did not help its case.

All the authorities on the western leg between Birmingham and Manchester backed the line “from day one” and as a result George Osborne brought forward its construction by six years, he added.

“You don’t have that long to nail down routes and locations, the clock is ticking.”

National business commentator, Justin Urquhart Stewart, said delays eroded confidence.

He added: “We let ourselves down by arguing over the decision. Just get on and do it.”