VOICES: Will HS2 be positive or negative for Sheffield?

An artist's impression of how Sheffield railway station could look.
An artist's impression of how Sheffield railway station could look.
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Have your say

As more details are unveiled of what changes HS2 could bring to Sheffield city centre, we ask those in the know what their opinion is on the scheme.

SHEFFIELD COUNCIL LEADER JULIE DORE

Coun Julie Dore

Coun Julie Dore

I have long been a supporter of HS2 and believe it will be very positive for Sheffield City Region.

The economic benefits of high speed rail come not just from the productivity benefits of faster journey times but also the regeneration that occurs around the stations and the access to a larger labour market enhanced connectivity creates. But this is only part of the story.

HS2 is about increased capacity, not just speed. This means HS2 services must be additional to what is in place already, not instead of existing services.

Most people agree that connectivity East to West across the Pennines is as, if not more, important as North to South and faster trains to London. These are not either or choices; the economy of the North of England needs and deserves both.

Richard Wright.

Richard Wright.

It is vital that HS2 is accompanied by drastically improved services to Leeds and Manchester, with frequent and reliable services of under 30 minute journey times.

The HS2 ‘loop’ north from Sheffield Midland on to Leeds needs to be delivered as a vital and early part of Northern Powerhouse Rail in order to deliver this onward connectivity.

Being part of the HS2 network is a key part of staying competitive and attractive to investment. This year we have begun the masterplanning of what the new HS2 station at Sheffield Midland and surrounding area will be.

There is a great deal of work ahead as we grasp this major opportunity for regeneration around the Sheaf Valley, linking different modes of transport, sorting the taxis and ensuring future capacity for growth in passenger numbers is not compromised.

Paul Blomfield.

Paul Blomfield.

We must also ensure HS2’s growth potential is realised right across Sheffield City Region by pushing for a Parkway station serving South Yorkshire, ensuring appropriate local connectivity is in place for all parts of the city region including Doncaster-Sheffield Airport and by harnessing the project to drive skills development via the excellent Rail College in Doncaster.

Once these steps are achieved, HS2 will be the positive force for the whole of Sheffield City Region that we need it to be.

PAUL GRIFFITHS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, PHASE TWO, HS2 LTD

Without doubt HS2 will be positive, not just for Sheffield, but for the wider city region too.

Paul Griffiths.

Paul Griffiths.

This is a once in a generation investment which will deliver huge improvements to the existing rail network for people in the North.

But as I always say, HS2 is much more than just a railway. The most successful cities, right across the world, are those that benefit from good connectivity and HS2 will deliver that.

We perhaps don’t think about the conscious decisions that businesses make when choosing where to locate, but connectivity is without doubt one of the leading factors.

Being accessible to customers, suppliers and a skilled workforce is crucial for any business to succeed, and we’re already seeing evidence of big businesses choosing to leave the capital and relocate to other parts of the country with good road, rail and transport links.

It’s happened in Birmingham recently with HSBC, a decade before HS2 arrives, and I’d expect to see that trend continue further North.

HS2 will also open doors for new job opportunities, and not just through the 25,000 roles that will be supporting during the design and construction of the railway.

For the half a million people living in Sheffield, the idea of working in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester or Leeds becomes a reality when the daily commute on HS2 is reduced to under 20 and 30 minutes respectively.

Sheffield city centre, and the towns and businesses surrounding it, will also be able to draw on a talent pool from the East Midlands, West Yorkshire and further afield.

The fact that Sheffield City Region is already reaping the benefits of HS2 is another sure sign of its positivity.

Over 80 companies in Yorkshire have already been awarded work on HS2, either directly or through its supply chain, and we have engaged with more than 360 businesses in the region on potential opportunities.

Sheffield City Region is working hard to maximise the benefits that HS2 will bring to people locally, and it’s that drive and planning at a local level which will really make HS2 a success.

RICHARD WRIGHT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT SHEFFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

It is hard to see any circumstance where HS2 can be negative for Sheffield. As a Chamber we have always argued that if HS2 goes ahead then it would be a disaster for Sheffield to be left out. With recent Government proposals to extend high speed rail to the rest of the country then it becomes even more important that Sheffield is connected.

I have been impressed recently by the number of inward investors in Sheffield and the wider region. People do not invest in a city or region on what is on offer now, but also on the plans and ambitions for the future. Technology development, skills supply and connectivity are three of the real basics.

While we cannot argue that HS2 will solve all of our future connectivity challenges alone it is a critical part of the package along with projects like the Hope Valley upgrade, better Trans Pennine road links and a station at Doncaster Sheffield airport. The difference between the latter three and HS2 is that they are about us catching up with other cities while HS2 is about keeping up. We do not, and must not, fall behind again.

The other advantage of having HS2 in Sheffield is that it forces us to take a longer term view of the development of our city and economy. Already we are talking ambitiously about the developments around the Midland Station (and connecting HS2 with Trans Pennine rail) and making it a real destination station that makes a statement about the city to passengers as they arrive. It also give us the confidence to market our city as a city of the future. We will appeal to sectors like creative digital, professional services, manufacturing, health and wellbeing, education.

And why is this so important? Its because it creates wealth and jobs and they are fundamentally important to the standard of living of all our residents.

PAUL BLOMFIELD, SHEFFIELD CENTRAL MP

Given all the problems with current rail services, it might seem odd to be debating a project that won’t be completed for at least 15 years. The first priority for the Government must be to confront the immediate problems and that means investment now.

It’s a disgrace that planned transport spending in London is almost five times more than in Yorkshire and the Humber, which is the lowest of all English regions.

But we also must look to the future.

After recent meetings in my role as shadow Brexit minister, my rail trip back to London from Paris was quicker than many of my weekly journeys to the capital from Sheffield. With the introduction of HS2, Sheffielders would be able to get to London in one hour 19 minutes, enjoying journey times that are taken for granted across the rest of Europe.

It’s not just speed, but also about making sure that the network can cope with the huge rise in demand. Rail journeys have doubled in the last twenty years and are set to increase further. Too many people have faced journeys on packed trains, struggling to get seats.

HS2 is the most effective way of expanding capacity.

But HS2 is not enough on its own. It has to be matched with investment in connectivity across the north.

I strongly argued for our HS2 station to be in the heart of the city, rather than in Meadowhall, so that we maximise the benefits for the whole of the city region. The station will not just be the HS2 stop, but the hub for transformed services across the north.

Current journey times between Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds are ludicrous. Fast and regular services would create a golden triangle of connected cities - linking to Liverpool, Hull and Newcastle - that would challenge the economic dominance of London.

So HS3 - or Northern Powerhouse Rail as it’s become known - is not an extra, but central to the vision of transforming our Victorian rail network and our unbalanced economy.