MEADOWHALL emerged this week as the likely location for a station for the high speed rail network when it passes through the Sheffield region.
Transport Minister Norman Baker has indicated that the east end of Sheffield represents “a safer choice” instead of a city centre location, such as the suggestion of reviving the old Victoria Station, off the Wicker.
In particular, he points to Meadowhall being on a straight, fast track, avoiding the need for a more expensive loop into the city centre that might attract attention if savings were demanded by a future government. Then loop would be off the main line and lengthen journey times.
In a letter to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Mr Baker says: “Whilst I understand Sheffield’s instinct for a central stop that would also regenerate this area of the city, I think it represents a gamble and there is a real risk that Sheffield could end up worse off, potentially even without a station at all.
“For this reason, I think the Meadowhall option, with improved public transport links from all parts of Sheffield represents a safer choice for Sheffield.”
Political and businesses leaders across the Sheffield region have been campaigning for years for a high speed network to encourage investment and jobs and to drastically cut journey times to and from London to as little as one hour ten minutes compared with the fastest time at present of just over two hours.
The Government has approved in principle a ‘Y-shaped’ network from London to Birmingham, where it would split with one arm going to Sheffield and Leeds and the other to Manchester.
It is a long-term project, with the high speed line, carrying trains at up to 250 mph, due to be built in two phases. The first will see construction of a route between London and Birmingham by 2026 and the second from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester by 2033.
Local Liberal Democrats had put forward the case for the old Sheffield Victoria train station, off the Wicker, to be restored to its former glory as the city’s destination for high speed rail route.
They had argued that a new station in or on the edge of the city centre would be more convenient for passengers instead of somewhere like Meadowhall, which would see passengers having to travel four miles out of the city, negating some of the improved journey time to London.
It was also thought Rotherham was another possible candidate. The existing station in Sheffield city centre has been ruled out as too small and impractical.
Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam Lib Dem MP Nick Clegg said yesterday it was a major victory to be included on the route. “Within the Coalition Government it is something that I and Liberal Democrats have been advocating.
“The proposed location of the stop will not be published until mid-December, so any discussion before that is simply speculation.
“However, it is my belief that any new station must be in a place which both ensures a first class service and delivers the maximum possible return in terms of boosting the local economy.”