Rotherham Council Leader, Chris Read, joined other local town councillors, parish councillors and local community representatives recently for the launch of a joint letter aimed at highlighting the widespread opposition to the current HS2 phase 2b route through South Yorkshire known as The M18 Eastern Route.
The letter, which has been co-signed by Sir Kevin Barron and Dennis Skinner, MPs, contains (amongst others) the signatures of 25 town and parish councils representing large areas of Yorkshire and Derbyshire who wish it to be known, that despite what some northern leaders would have you believe, there is NO agreement in the region where HS2 is concerned.
Organisers say they have been frustrated in recent months by regional representatives turning a blind eye to the widespread opposition and by the constant misleading media statements claiming consensus.
In South Yorkshire alone the county is split 50/50, with Sheffield and Barnsley Councils supporting the route, and Rotherham and Doncaster Councils opposing it on the basis that a slow spur into Sheffield City Centre is of no benefit to the rest of the region and cannot possibly compare with the high speed station they were originally promised at Meadowhall.
It is interesting to note that although Sheffield Council and Barnsley Council now appear to be supportive of the route, Sheffield Council leader, Julie Dore, confirmed in an email less than a year ago “I have been clear from the start, that the location of the HS2 station should have been at Victoria and my views haven’t changed.”
Meanwhile Barnsley Council stated in an email of February this year “As you know Barnsley has been committed to HS2 from the outset and had a preference for the Meadowhall route. Unfortunately, this is no longer to take place and we’ve been given a less than optimum solution”.
These statements appear to be less than supportive of the route and must surely raise questions?
The letter, which is addressed to the Prime Minister and other party leaders, has been officially presented to the office of the Metro Mayor of South Yorkshire, Dan Jarvis.
“we have tried and tried to get some form of recognition but without success. We have had meetings with Transport for the North and numerous discussions with the Metro Mayor, but for some reason, the people that we would expect to support us seem intent on simply towing the HS2 line instead of doing what is best for the region. It doesn’t make sense when there are far better alternatives out there. Hopefully this letter will highlight the strength of feeling that many of the better resourced hs2 lobby groups had hoped would go unnoticed.”
The letter says
Dear Prime Minister, Mr. Corbyn, Ms. Swinson & Ms. Sturgeon
We have recently had sight of an open letter sent to you on behalf of Midlands Connect, Midlands Engine, Leeds City Council and Northern Powerhouse Partnership, asking you to commit to the construction of HS2 Phase 2. Their reason for doing so, and I quote:
“HS2 Phase 2 will extend the benefits of this vital piece of infrastructure …across the East Midlands, The North West, The North East and Scotland”.
There’s just one thing missing here – South Yorkshire – the region situated between The Midlands and Leeds, and containing the City of Sheffield.
Leeds City Council (one of the signatories) is happy to accept Phase 2 in its current form, and why not? After all, Leeds will probably benefit the most from a direct high speed rail link all the way down to London and vice versa. The Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect signatories are happy with Birmingham’s position, with new stations and high speed connections north (to Nottingham/Derby, Leeds and beyond), and south (to Birmingham and London). Nottingham and Derby also benefit from a high speed hub which will serve both cities. Finally, The Northern Powerhouse Partnership is just happy to know that HS2 will reach them in any form.
The only region NOT TO BENEFIT from Phase 2 is South Yorkshire. The region is being offered no more than a spur off the high speed line, north of Nottingham, allowing HS2 trains to take a detour and trundle along the existing Midland Mainline into Sheffield Midland Station, and that is where Phase 2b currently ends for Sheffield. The city, does not get a direct high speed link to any of the other cities – north or south. The speed, capacity, number of services, connectivity – all the drivers for building HS2 in the first place – are all diminished by using this option, and existing local services will suffer as a consequence, as will any economic benefits.
There are other options which would allow for Sheffield to have a station on the high speed line. One would be to use Sheffield Victoria Station. This was the choice of Sheffield City Council. Other options have also been presented, which should be considered.
So in conclusion, it is vital that if Parliament is to commit to building HS2 Phase 2, it must also commit to re-visiting the route through South Yorkshire, to provide the city of Sheffield with its own high speed station, equal to the cities of London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds – NOT A PARKWAY STATION AND NOT A SPUR! This is what the people of SY voted for in the 2016 consultation.
IF HS2 IS TO COME NORTH, IT MUST TREAT EVERY CITY EQUALLY.