Sheffield city centre high-speed rail station ‘worth cost’

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Sheffield city leaders have urged the Government to rethink plans for the location of the city’s planned high-speed rail station.

The Department for Transport accepts the alternative of a city centre terminal at the former Victoria Station would have a higher economic benefit than the planned site at Meadowhall.

However, sticking points involve the extra £1 billion cost of building a line into the city – and the fact moving the station would take it further away from neighbouring towns.

Arguments for and against stations at Meadowhall or Victoria were discussed at a meeting between HS2 limited – the Government company in charge of building the line – Sheffield Council and business chiefs, chaired by Master Cutler Neil MacDonald.

During yesterday’s debate at Electric Works Simon Green, council executive director, said: “In our opinion, the gain from having the station at Victoria would be two-and-a-half times higher than at Meadowhall.

“The economic benefits of the high-speed rail network are estimated at £2 for every £1 spent – but the route into Sheffield Victoria would create £5 billion for a £1 billion outlay.

“There would be 10,000 jobs created by a station at Victoria, instead of 4,500 in the surrounding area.

“City centres deliver more economic growth than economic hinterlands.

“Stations in the middle of nowhere do not live up to their billing – East Midlands Parkway has only attracted a third of the predicted passengers so far. The station should be where it has the greatest economic impact.”

Mr Green said other towns and cities could also take advantage of the extra jobs in Sheffield.

A station at Sheffield Victoria would be on a loop from the main line, which would still skirt to Meadowhall, on a four-kilometre, 20-metre high viaduct.

The city loop would run along an existing line through Woodhouse and Darnall to Victoria, then under north Sheffield by a tunnel to meet the main line at Hesley Wood.

The debate heard HS2 accepts a station at Victoria would have a greater economic benefit, but journeys on the loop would take five minutes longer than if trains stayed on the main line.

Mr Chapman said: “We are launching a consultation and are prepared to listen. The extra cost of a loop into Sheffield would have to be justified.”

Mr Chapman said Meadowhall would best ‘serve South Yorkshire’s regional needs’ – and up to seven trains an hour would run from the station into Sheffield instead of five at present.

Jobs boost revealed

Building the HS2 high-speed rail network could create 19,000 engineering and construction jobs – plus 2,000 apprenticeships – according to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Opportunities for young people through the project include creating engineering jobs for students through initiatives in schools, further and higher education and a programme of apprenticeships and internships.

Speaking at a summit in Manchester yesterday, attended by Sheffield Council representatives, Mr McLaughlin, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales, said: “HS2 provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive growth, generate jobs, develop skills and secure our country’s future prosperity.

“We need to squeeze every possible benefit from this vital project, leaving no stone unturned.

“This summit of the biggest cities outside of London is vital to ramp up plans to ensure we make the best use of UK skills and workers in building the high-speed rail network.”

The high-speed rail line has been endorsed by Derbyshire County Council, which also supports plans for a maintenance depot at Staveley, near Chesterfield.

Staveley depot could provide between 200 and 500 jobs and would become the base for all maintenance work on the line.

The overall cost of HS2 is 
£42.6 billion – about 25 per cent higher than originally planned – with the opening date for the section from Birmingham to Leeds being 2032/33.

The Government is expected to launch a public consultation on the whole line within weeks.