Connecting Sheffield to HS2 would slash rail journey times but could cause travel disruption while the work is carried out.
That’s according to the latest proposals setting out how the city would be connected to the new high-speed rail line running between London and Leeds.
Sheffield would not lie directly on the main HS2 line but would be connected via a spur running from Clay Cross to Sheffield station via Chesterfield, with four trains an hour serving the city.
This would cut journey times between London and Sheffield from 2 hours 1 minute to 1hr 27min, and enable passengers to travel from Sheffield to Birmingham in 49 minutes compared with 1hr 3min at present.
But it would involve the electrification of an existing 25km section of the Midland Main Line, and work at Sheffield station to accommodate HS2 services, requiring a considerable amount of engineering work.
A public exhibition at King Ecgbert School in Dore today set out in more detail what that work could entail, and the disruption it might cause.
But it left many questions unanswered, and when The Star caught up with members of the public attending the event there was a mixed response.
The latest proposals, which are also available to view online and are open for consultation, state that electrification works would include installing track, signalling equipment and overhead line masts to power the trains.
This work, along with modifications to Sheffield station, would be carried out during the same period as construction of the second phase of the HS2 scheme, which has yet to be approved but is expected to take place between 2023 and 2033, when the new route is scheduled to open.
Traffic diversions may be necessary, especially during work to bridges, and some disruption is likely to rail services, according to a draft environmental statement.
But there is little detail at this stage about how long this work is expected to take and how extensive the disruption might be.
A BBC report last year suggested work to bring HS2 to Sheffield could result in more than five years of disruption to commuters, but Network Rail said at the time there had been ‘many discussions’ since the briefing note on which the report was based was written.
The draft plans suggest disruption to rail services during construction works would be minimised by scheduling them to coincide with planned maintenance where possible or carrying them out at night or during weekends and bank holidays.
As for modifications to the station, the document states these remain ‘subject to ongoing design development and discussion with Network Rail’.
Representatives from HS2 Ltd refused to answer The Star’s questions at Wednesday’s public meeting about how long work in the area might take.
However, the firm did say it was not expected at this stage that additional platforms would be required at Sheffield station to accommodate the new service.
It encouraged members of the community to get involved in the consultation and help shape the plans.
And it claimed more than 90 companies in Yorkshire had already been awarded contracts to work on the project, with this number expected to rise ‘significantly’ as plans for the second phase develop.
Wednesday's exhibition focused on the area between Unstone Green and Sheffield station, but similar events are being held in other communities around South Yorkshire lying on the proposed HS2 route, where the existing plans involve the demolition of homes and building on public land.
They will take place at:
- Aston Hall Hotel, Worksop Road, Aston, on Tuesday, November 6, from 2pm until 8pm
- Dronfield Civic Hall, Dronfield Civic Centre, on Wednesday, November 7, from 2pm until 8pm
- Best Western Pastures Plus Hotel, Pastures Road, Mexborough, on Thursday, November 8, from 2pm until 8pm
WHAT MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC HAD TO SAY
Ian Cooper, a 77-year-old former Sheffield Hallam University lecturer, from Dore, said: “I’m glad they've finally recognised that Sheffield is on the map and ought to be included in the route.
“I question the need for the project, which seems quite extravagant when we've had years of austerity measures.
“But if it helps diminish the north-south divide, as they predict it might, it would be a worthy addition to our infrastructure.
“It's also pleasing to hear that they’re looking at other ways to improve Sheffield’s rail connections, which could include electrifying the route to Manchester.”
Harry Moore, a 66-year-old retired University of Sheffield professor, living in Dore, said: “It doesn't look like the impact will be too great for people in this area but I’m not sure it will do much to improve connectivity.
“I think it would be a better use of money to improve the existing line to London and maybe electrify that.”
Margaret Ibbetson, a 78-year-old former teacher, living in Millhouses, said: “It doesn’t appear to improve connections to the north from Sheffield. It only shows reduced journey times going south.
“Trains will have to go down well past Chesterfield to join the main HS2 line, which seems like quite a long way.
“This will improve rail travel but whether it justifies all the fuss and the cost in the long term remains to be seen.”
Mike Rose, a committee member of the Railfuture campaign group, said: “I like the idea of HS2 coming to Sheffield and Leeds. I just think the route’s wrong.
“Much of the route seems to follow motorways, whereas I think you would get better value for money by following old railway lines.
“I would like to see the old Woodhead line between Sheffield and Manchester reopened.
“That would enable you to run the HS2 line from Sheffield to Leeds via Stocksbridge and Penistone, while improving the service between Sheffield and Manchester.”
“As it stands, the service between Leeds and Manchester is going to be brilliant and passengers travelling between Sheffield and Manchester will be left with a terrible service.”