Let’s pick up speed with HS2, says business

Business representatives in Sheffield this week welcomed the possibility of high speed trains arriving in the city three years earlier than initially envisaged.

A new timetable from HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins proposed speeding up the second phase to bring earlier benefits to the North, with a completion date of 2030 instead of 2033.

Current plans envisage a station next to Meadowhall on the route from Birmingham to Leeds, although the council and business community is pressing for the site of the former Victoria Station, off the Wicker, on the basis that it would give a better return on the investment and generate more wealth.

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “The suggestion by Sir David Higgins to bring HS2 to Sheffield earlier is clearly positive news for the city region. We are seeing much more evidence that the project is justified on capacity reasons, in addition to any economic benefits.

“The Chamber will lobby hard for the work on HS2 to start in the north at the same time as the south and will raise the question of fair and reasonable compensation to be agreed and paid promptly where the line cuts across private land.

“We recognise the supply chain opportunities when HS2 goes ahead, which is why one of the key speakers attending the Global Manufacturing Festival in the summer will be from the project. Also, it is imperative for HS2 to join-up with HS1. A big issue for us is connectivity with Europe and this will be achieved by linking the two lines.”

Mr Wright said the Chamber supported the former Victoria site on the basis of recent economic studies, but it would have preferred the Local Enterprise Partnership to have conducted this study rather than the council.

It would presumably have produced the same arguments, “but may have been adopted collectively, thereby avoiding the issue of Sheffield being seen as ‘looking after itself’. We have to take the politics and parochialism out of economic development.”