'HS2 disunity in South Yorkshire could see rail project scrapped through the region'

The disunity between South Yorkshire councils on HS2 could result in the high speed link through the region being scraped, a business chief has said.

Monday, 21st October 2019, 6:02 pm
Updated Friday, 25th October 2019, 12:46 pm
Leader of Rotherham Council, Coun Chris Read

National reports suggest the independent Oakervee review into HS2 will recommend scrapping the line from the East Midlands to Leeds which encompasses the route through South Yorkshire in order to save £10bn.

Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster have differing views on how the project should proceed.

Sheffield and Barnsley are both backing the project but Rotherham and Doncaster have called for the eastern leg to be scrapped if the main South Yorkshire station isn't moved from Sheffield city centre back to Meadowhall.

Leader of Barnsley Council, Coun Sir Steve Houghton. Picture Bruce Rollinson

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The government initially listed Meadowhall as the South Yorkshire station but lobbying from Sheffield Council persuaded civil servants to change the route.

Midland was chosen and the ramifications across South Yorkshire have been felt mainly in the increase in demolitions in west Doncaster and eastern Rotherham.

A pragmatic breakthrough was found between the four councils after they endorsed the Sheffield City Region Integrated Rail Plan. This set out a variety of schemes which included a definitive position on HS2, tram-train expansion and a new line and station at Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

But recent submissions by Rotherham and Doncaster to the independent Oakervee review on HS2 now contradicts the rail plan agreement.

The four South Yorkshire council leaders and city region mayor Dan Jarvis

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce chief Richard Wright said disagreements between the councils could give extra impetus for the Government to pull the plug on the eastern HS2 leg through South Yorkshire.

"The combined authority need trying to pull everyone together and focus on the bigger picture moving forward,” Wright said.

"But all the council leaders signed the Integrated Rail Plan which basically was a blueprint for the region's rail future only weeks' ago which included HS2 backing the current route and they've got to get behind that.

"It's very disappointing that not long after it was signed some people came out and started to question parts of it.

Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones

"I don't know if Dan Jarvis would've had any better time trying to sort out HS2 if he wasn't an MP - at the end of the day you've got to get people looking at the wider issue and he's trying to do that with one hand tied behind his back because he's got four councils that can't reach a common position.

"I thought they had reached it with the Integrated Rail Plan. But Dan is the mayor he is the chair of the combined authority and it is his job to try and put forward a common view as it was with devolution.

"It's like they signed it and then turned around and said it was a waste of time because they actually didn't agree with it which is terrible.

“We could end up with a situation where HS2 doesn't come through the region and that would be a disaster the regional economy."

Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore

Sheffield Council's position (Leader - Julie Dore)

In favour of a city centre station and the current status quo. Feel other big cities have a central stations and they shouldn't miss out.

If HS2 is scrapped in this region, Sheffield is by far the biggest loser.

Initially wanted the station to be on the former Victoria site on the Wicker.

Midland was chosen instead but critics say the 'spur' leg from the main HS2 route into the city centre is not high speed rail.

Route change means more demolitions in Rotherham and Doncaster.

An artist's impression of what Sheffield railway station could look like if HS2 comes to the city centre. Picture: Sheffield Council.

It's unclear if funding is available to upgrade the line back onto the main route near Pontefract, West Yorkshire.

Council bosses are concerned around speculation the eastern leg through South Yorkshire will be scrapped to save money.

Rotherham Council's position (Leader - Chris Read)

Is calling for HS2 to build the main South Yorkshire station at Meadowhall if the scheme goes ahead.

Councillors passed a motion last December calling for the whole eastern leg to Leeds to be scrapped. Dozens of homes in eastern Rotherham, like Doncaster face the bulldozer to make way for HS2.

They also want the Government to allocate the funding released from the abandonment of the Leeds leg to 'boost essential improvements to local transport infrastructure'.

Coun Read said: “The current HS2 proposal offers little or no economic benefit to the Rotherham borough and its businesses.

"We need either a Meadowhall stop or we call on the Government to scrap the development all together rather than build it in a way that will cause years of disruption at massive cost, and instead reallocate the savings to fund essential improvements to regional rail connectivity through the Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

Barnsley Council's position (Leader - Sir Steve Houghton)

Probably come out best in the whole situation with a HS2 station on the spur near Goldthorpe.

They didn't get all what they wanted and pushed for the M18 Parkway station on the main line but the SCR Integrated Rail Plan keeps the option open.

Barnsley also share concerns around speculation the route to Leeds is facing the axe.

Coun Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, said: "The Integrated Rail Plan states that we will continue to explore securing a station on the HS2 mainline as a long term aspiration, which when combined with the proposes station on the Northern Powerhouse Rail network, would give our residents and businesses greater access to the network.

"I'm pleased to see that the SCR Integrated Rail plan includes proposals for a new Barnsley Dearne Valley railway station, with the preferred location on a site in Goldthorpe. This would be a great addition to the Dearne Valley area and the surrounding communities

“The suggested scrapping of the eastern leg of HS2 is of serious concern to our borough and to our surrounding neighbours.”

Doncaster Council's position (Leader - Mayor Ros Jones)

Takes a similar view to Rotherham with Mayor Jones time after time reiterating her position that Meadowhall would be the best site for a South Yorkshire station.

Mexborough, which lies in the Doncaster Council boundary in the west of the borough, is the single worst affected place for demolitions.

The council did not respond when asked to comment on speculation the route through South Yorkshire.

But Doncaster has a lot to lose if the current position stays the same with little or no benefit.

Once the new Azuma train timetable is sorted out, Doncaster to London will take as little as 80 minutes.

Mayor Ros Jones said: “Delivering HS2 must not come at the expense of other vital rail investment in the north or measures to protect communities. That would be a betrayal of our region and the Government’s commitment to rebalance the national economy.

"We are set to see mass demolitions to have HS2 pass through our region with negligible beneficial impact for our residents, communities and economy. It’s all pain and no gain.

“Passengers and services in our region are suffering now. We can’t wait another 20 years to deliver much needed rail improvements.

"We need to go back to the Meadowhall option or seriously look at the planned eastern leg."

Sheffield City Region position (Leader - Dan Jarvis)

Like devolution, the mayor is in a difficult position trying to get a unified position on the issue of HS2.

The Integrated Rail Plan was a welcome step but Doncaster and Rotherham opposing the current route (which they endorsed) has thrown a further complication into the works.

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “Although making our rail network fit for the 21st century does not rely on one single infrastructure project, HS2 is important for us to achieve the rail connectivity we need. This is why I’m concerned at recent rumours that the eastern leg of the project may be scrapped.

"What we need from this Government is truly transformative investment that delivers east-west and north-south connectivity.

“This investment would enable us to deliver the projects laid out in my Integrated Rail Plan, such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, as well as extensions to the Tram-Train and Supertram networks, an East Coast Main Line station at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, the Masterplan for Sheffield Midland railway station and the new proposed Dearne Valley Parkway station."

The Shimmer Estate in Mexborough is set be demolished to make way for HS2. Picture Scott Merrylees/The Star
An artist's impression of HS2
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Picture: Chris Etchells