Sheffield politicians and business leaders have welcomed new plans to bring HS2 to the city centre – but the decision to scrap the Meadowhall option is to be challenged by other South Yorkshire MPs.
HS2 bosses say stopping their original plan of building a new high-speed station at Meadowhall and instead directing services to the existing Sheffield Midland station via a ‘spur’ off the main new north-south line will save £1bn.
Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore said she was ‘delighted’ at the decision, with the move also welcomed by the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.
But Rotherham MP John Healey and Doncaster North’s Ed Miliband are demanding a meeting with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin over the shelving of the Meadowhall option.
Coun Dore said: “I am delighted that our campaign to bring Sheffield’s HS2 station into the city centre has been successful. We have made the case from the start that a city centre station makes more economic sense than Meadowhall with the additional 6,500 jobs and £5bn extra in growth that it will create.
“Connectivity, capacity and frequency is key to this and I will be seeking commitments from the Government to the early electrification of the Midland Main Line, establishing a fast link to Leeds and at least two trains per hour between Sheffield and London.”
Richard Wright, executive director of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, added: “We are delighted with this. Of course the work does not stop here. We will campaign equally as hard to get the right number of services through the station and the right connectivity from the station to the rest of the region.
“Equally we need to work hard with East Midlands trains to improve our existing services to London, Leeds and Manchester. HS2 is a long way away despite the decisions being made now and the economy needs to grow well before that.”
But Mr Healey said he was concerned about what the change would mean for the rest of the county.
He said: “Big transport funding has heavily favoured London for years, so I’ve been ready to back any economic investment that shifts the balance more to the North. But I am dismayed to see these surprise new plans to drop Meadowhall as South Yorkshire’s HS2 stop.
“The number one purpose of this change is clearly to cut costs, and I fear the so-called ‘spur line’ into Sheffield is simply a sop to the city. We can’t have the new High Speed line to Leeds running right through South Yorkshire but not stopping in South Yorkshire.
“I want to see a guarantee from Government of benefits directly into Rotherham, Doncaster and the Dearne if these plans are backed by Ministers, so Ed Miliband and I are arranging to see the Transport Secretary with other local MPs to argue this case.”
Mr Miliband said he now wants to establish how people living on the intended new route in the Doncaster area will be affected.
He said: “I am deeply concerned about the effect that this proposed change to the HS2 route will have on some of my constituents.
“This has come as a bolt from the blue for areas I represent and some people will feel very anxious as a result.
“We need to know quickly how many people would be affected and in what way, what kind of compensation would be available and what, if anything, the communities I represent would get from this plan for the disruption that would be caused.”
Despite the concerns, Andrew Denniff, chief executive of the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, said the new solution appears to ‘give something to everyone’ in South Yorkshire.
Transport Secretary Mr McLoughlin said a final decision will be made later this year, with people living on the new route to be consulted.
He said: “HS2 will go to Manchester and Leeds but I know opinion in South Yorkshire is divided about how the new railway can best serve that region with passionate arguments being made for a station at either Meadowhall or Sheffield city centre.”
He said the new plan opens up the possibility of running high-speed trains from Sheffield to Leeds, while also adding Chesterfield to the locations that will be served by HS2.