Chamber’s response to HS2 consultation
Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber have been fully supportive of HS2 from its initial conception.
The Chamber accepted the original route without alteration and applauded the concept of a station within the Meadowhall area as being best place to deliver connectivity and economic growth to the central and northern parts of the Sheffield City Region (the extreme southern part of the city region also being well served by the proposed East Midlands station).
We were therefore shocked and disappointed at the sudden change in route without any prior notice or consultation and its presentation as being almost a foregone conclusion.
Despite our disappointment in the manner of this announcement we have looked at the proposal in a logical and clinical way taking into account what is best for the City Region as a whole rather than the narrow interests of the Barnsley and Rotherham areas whose businesses we represent.
With this in mind we would wish to comment as follows:
- We are still strongly supportive of HS2 as a concept providing it serves both the northeast and northwest regions of the UK rather than just stopping in Birmingham.
- We recognise that any route is likely to have adverse local effects; however the newly proposed route will create many adverse local effects both during construction and with the loss of businesses and housing within the Sheffield City Region without delivering any significant benefits to the wider city region due to the lack of a proper mainline station.
- We are strongly opposed to the idea of the proposed branch line into Sheffield City Centre on the following basis:
- There is no money from HS2 for any of the suggestions about line upgrades to the north, loop lines or upgraded stations. We know from previous experience that if these proposals are part of a separate project/budget and not carried out at the same time as the HS2 project, then they are unlikely to happen or will happen in such an extended time frame that any benefits would be postponed/lost.
- Due to Sheffield, no longer being on the main route, the frequency of trains to Sheffield and South Yorkshire (up to 2 per hour as opposed to 5 per hour in the original proposal), would be significantly less than those to Leeds/West Yorkshire. Sheffield is already some way behind Leeds in economic terms and the proposal would serve to increase this imbalance.
- We fail to see the reasoning in forcing a large number of extra cars into an already extremely congested city centre with road network that is not only suffers poor connectivity to the wider city region but is already operating in excess of capacity for a significant period of the day.
- Due to utilising non-HS2 track north of Chesterfield, Sheffield bound trains would have to be classic compatible resulting in shorter trains (200m rather than 400m for HS2 specification trains) and slower speeds. This would result in 2 x 200m trains per hour into Sheffield rather than 2 x 400m plus 3 x 200m trains proposed for Meadowhall thus reducing capacity to the Sheffield City Region.
- The currently proposed Sheffield Midland Station terminus is more challenging to get to from most the Sheffield City Region. Combined with an increased journey time to London at 78 minutes compared with Meadowhall at 68 minutes, we consider it is likely that a significant part, and possibly a majority, of the Sheffield City region would either continue to use the East Coast Mainline from Doncaster or would drive to the proposed East Midlands station.
- Economic growth (if any) due to HS2 would only benefit a small area of Sheffield City Centre due to both poor vehicular and public transport access to Sheffield Midland Station from much of the City Region, in a direct contradiction to the Government’s policy of City Regions.
- Under the new proposal, it would be impossible to travel from Sheffield to Leeds and the North East via HS2. One of the major advantages of the HS2 original proposal for the City Region was vastly better public transport connectivity between Sheffield and Leeds. This journey currently takes 50 minutes by rail, under the original proposal it would take only 30 minutes. Under the new proposal, this journey would not even be possible. Although HS2 documentation shows various diagrams relating to this route, none of this is funded and these are only suggestions from HS2 about possible future investment from unspecified other sources. The Chamber feels that the inclusion of these diagrams in the report is misleading and disingenuous. Official Highways England figures show that 117,000 vehicles travel between Sheffield and Leeds every day. Whilst we are not suggesting that these would use HS2 clearly some would do so if the station was at Meadowhall, whereas none can do so under the current proposal which doesn’t link Leeds and Sheffield via HS2.
- Although it has been speculated upon in the media has HS2 may be considering a mainline station on the new route, none of these speculated upon locations would have anywhere the same public transport access as the original Meadowhall proposal, which has existing access to the current Sheffield to Leeds mainline (stopping in Barnsley and Wakefield), Meadowhall Interchange, South Yorkshire Supertram (including the new tram/train project) and the Sheffield to Doncaster mainline (stopping in Rotherham).
- Walking times between Sheffield Midland Station and Sheffield City Centre are not significantly less than tram times between Meadowhall and the City Centre, negating many the benefits of having a city centre station.
Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically support the original Meadowhall HS2 route.
We are extremely opposed to the currently proposed Sheffield branch line option without modification particularly as this would see the City Region having all the negatives of the line running through the area without any benefits that would accrue from having a proper station on the main line.
The strength of feeling is such that should the current proposal stand we would very reluctantly be forced to withdraw our support for the whole project.