HS2 support divided?

I am replying to the points raised in The Star's recent opinion piece in support of building the HS2 station in Sheffield city centre rather than Meadowhall.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 12th January 2016, 5:50 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th January 2016, 5:54 am

“Ever since HS2 was first mooted, support has been divided between a city centre station and a station at Meadowhall.”

No it hasn’t. By far the vast majority of people in the Sheffield City Region, of which 3/4 live outside of the city itself, understand that a stop at Meadowhall makes much more sense for everybody concerned. Including those who live in Sheffield.

“The Star is throwing its weight behind a city centre station as the only option for the city, which is why we’ve launched our City Centre or Bust Campaign.””

Which should be renamed; “City Centre is Bust Campaign”, because the city centre will succeed more with the stop at Meadowhall as there is much more opportunity to build a large international hub there that the entire region will benefit from. There simply isn’t the available land for that kind of surrounding development in the city centre without destroying yet more of the city’s heritage. Something that the city can well do without!

“But don’t take our word for it. We’re aligning with the views of business experts across the city who have said in no uncertain terms that the city centre is the only way Sheffield City Region will feel the full benefit of the superfast line.”

Do you really think your readers are that stupid? Highlighting city businesses who have a self-interest to even attempt to speak on behalf of businesses in the rest of the region is arrogant and narcissistic to say the least. Just because a business is knowledgeable in an area of commerce that has provided an income says nothing about their ability to judge what’s best for the region as a whole. And, in fact, if a HS2 stop at Meadowhall allows for much bigger and cheaper opportunities for new businesses to come in and locate in that location then this is almost certainly the kind of competition that companies in the city centre won’t want. This clearly rules out an unbiased opinion from these companies about what’s best for the region as a whole!

“A total of 27 directors and senior executives representing 2,000 businesses, from white collar employers to football clubs say they fear the benefits of northern economic growth could be lost if the high speed station is not in the centre.”

And where have they plucked these so-called facts and figures from? I don’t think they have any well resourced figures at all. The Star calls this one right; all they have is fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of more competition.

“Simon Green, Sheffield Council’s HS2 expert, says chancellor George Osborne will make his decision in spring. His message is clear: ‘It’s time to wake up and back HS2 in the city centre’.”

My message is clearer; “It’s time to stop being fearful and back the only viable option, HS2 at Meadowhall.”

“The key benefit of HS2 is that it will drive growth. People will want to live near to the station, and will be able to commute to jobs which they would have lived somewhere else for in the past.”

Which reinforces the Meadowhall location once again. Look at the new township of Waverley and how desirable that will become with a HS2 stop nearby. There are still large swathes of land close by the canal and River Don (subject to flooding risks) all the way from the city centre to Rotherham that are ripe for house building, making the most of the water frontage. How desirable could that long stretch of housing be with the right vision?

“Look at the numbers for the centre: 6,000 more jobs than a station at Meadowhall. An extra 1,000 homes. Even Rotherham and Barnsley will get more homes with a central station.”

Once again we have a set of figures plucked out of somewhere that the sun don’t shine. Any extra jobs created by having a stop in the city centre would simply be temporary demolishing and building jobs (mainly pouring concrete) because so much of the present infrastructure and what’s left of the heritage in that location would be wiped away.

Who has independently verified that Barnsley and Rotherham will get more housing by having a stop in the city centre than at Meadowhall?

Nobody, that’s who.

“It’s not that anyone has a problem with Meadowhall. It’s a superb shopping centre and a true asset to our city which we can only hope will continue to go from strength to strength.”

And most people don’t have a problem with Meadowhall as the ideal stop for the HS2 in this region: still in the city of Sheffield but perfectly located to serve the entire region, not only from west to east but from the Markham Main business area in the south to businesses that straddle the length of the M1 past Barnsley all the way up north to Wakefield.

If you’re a business in Wakefield are you really going to chance driving into Leeds city centre to get to their HS2 stop or are you going to come straight down the M1 to the Meadowhall HS2 stop with the much better infrastructure allowing much easier access?

It shows a complete lack of understanding of what HS2 is all about and why the location at Meadowhall, Sheffield is so vital for the HS2 franchise as well as the entire region. Maximising a good return for HS2 is just as vital for them as it is the vested parties trumpeting for the stop to be in the city centre.

This is why a scheme like HS2 works in city centres only when the economics are already in place there. If not then it has to be more focused on the wider region.

And this is where the Meadowhall stop really comes up trumps.

Instead of a city centre stop reinforcing the wealth in the centre of a place like Leeds, the fact that the stop is proposed for Meadowhall will enable that wealth to be spread more evenly throughout the region, with ultimately more people benefitting from it.

That extra regional spend is then what helps make the centres of Sheffield and surrounding towns more vibrant and viable.

I can see places like Bradford and Huddersfield missing out big time as all the regeneration is sucked into an already wealthy Leeds. But wouldn’t the same thing happen if Sheffield cty centre had the HS2 stop I hear you cry? No because, as I alluded to earlier, the wealth, population and economic density already have to be there. In Sheffield it isn’t.

At Meadowhall it has the potential to be, and that is how the surrounding towns and city will grow – if they sell themselves properly!

“But decision makers need to do what is best for Sheffield City Region, and all the expertise is pointing to a city centre station.”

Hopefully they will make the only decision that’s right for the entire city region and that’s to have the stop at Meadowhall. That’s the only location that any expertise is pointing to. Anything else is just deluded wishful thinking.

“We will do all we can to trumpet HS2 in the city centre, as we always fight to secure the best possible future for our city.”

And with your final statement you let the cat out of the bag.

This self centred parochial attitude is what’s driving this delusional campaign and is what has held the city back for so long.

These self-interested parties aren’t actually interested in the entirety of the City Region at all. As you put it: “We always fight to secure the best possible future for our city.”

In other words, who cares what happens to the rest.

Andrew Stringer

Hillsborough, Sheffield 6