MEADOWHALL is likely to be chosen as the site for Sheffield’s new high speed rail station despite a campaign for the facility to be built in the city centre, The Star can reveal.
A letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport, Norman Baker, to his boss, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, backs Meadowhall and warns that using the old Victoria Station site off The Wicker would ‘risk leaving Sheffield worse off’.
But a large amount of money would be made available to improve public transport access from across the Sheffield city region if Meadowhall is chosen.
Some businesses and Sheffield Council’s Liberal Democrat group had lobbied in favour of Victoria because a station there would help regenerate the city centre and be more accessible.
But Mr Baker said the main line would have to be built as straight as possible, while a line into Sheffield city centre would require curves which would slow down trains and tunnels costing up to £1 billion to reconnect with the line to Leeds.
Therefore, a city centre station would have to be on a loop rather than the main line, meaning it would have fewer services and could be vulnerable if a future Government wanted to make savings from the project.
Mr Baker’s letter, which comes weeks before a provisional route for the line through Sheffield is set to be revealed, said: “While I understand Sheffield’s instinct for a central stop that would also regenerate this area of the city, I think it represents a gamble and there is a real risk that Sheffield could end up worse off, potentially even without a station at all.
“For this reason, I think the Meadowhall option, with improved public transport links from all parts of Sheffield, represents a safer choice for Sheffield.”
Mr Baker said he had given full consideration to the city centre station idea.
Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “The proposed location of the stop will not be published until mid-December, so any discussion before that is simply speculation. However, it is my belief that any new station must be in a place which both ensures a first class service and delivers the maximum possible return in terms of boosting the local economy.”
“It is a major victory that we will be included on the route.”
Sheffield business leaders are enthusiastic about the line - wherever the station is built.
Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is important to locate the station wherever it provides the best value for money and the strongest economical case to improve business growth across the Sheffield City Region.
“A vitally important element will be the need to improve transport links from the station to all areas of the city region, including the extension of the Supertram route, better connections to the M1 and improved public transport if necessary.”
Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for transport, said: “At this stage we cannot comment on specific potential sites as discussions are ongoing.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are determined to ensure Sheffield makes the most of this enormous opportunity.”
High speed rail facts:
* The planned high speed rail network - known as HS2 - will cost £32bn and run from London to Birmingham, then in two branches to Manchester and Leeds. Sheffield will be on the Leeds branch.
* The London to Birmingham line is not due to open before 2026 and the stretch to Leeds via Sheffield will not be ready until 2033.
* Journeys from Sheffield to London will take 1hr 15 mins.