Belfast Telegraph

Anti-HS2 campaigners say more cuts to come after Sheffield plan dropped

Campaigners opposed to the High Speed 2 rail project claimed "there will be more cuts to come" after it was recommended that plans for a new station in Sheffield should be dropped.

HS2 Ltd, the company responsible for building the north-south rail link, published a report which proposed that services should go along the existing line to Sheffield Midland station in the city centre rather than a new one at Meadowhall.

Sheffield City council had called for such a move amid concerns over the convenience and the ground conditions of Meadowhall, which is on the outskirts of the city.

If the new plan is supported by the Department for Transport it is expected to save around £1 billion.

Whitehall spending watchdog t he National Audit Office last week warned that the £55.7 billion railway is facing financial pressures, with some elements "currently unfunded".

Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, said: "This cut to the HS2 project is one in a long line of cuts, and it is certain there will be more cuts to come, but the irony is it is a vindication of all those who said any new high speed link should go into existing stations."

He claimed the move demonstrates that HS2 Ltd " desperately need to cut their ever-spiralling costs".

Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of the S heffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said he was "delighted" by the announcement.

HS2 Ltd's report notes that trains could potentially also call at Chesterfield, while the possibility of building a parkway station on the proposed route - which partly follows the M18 motorway - will be investigated.

David Higgins, HS2 Ltd chairman, commented: "I have listened to the very constructive comments and discussions that have taken place on how HS2 should best serve South Yorkshire and recommend the option of HS2 services using the existing city centre station.

"Decisions of this scale sometimes involve compromise, and through dialogue I believe we have reached the best solution for South Yorkshire."

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin acknowledged there were "passionate arguments" about how HS2 should serve the region.

He said he will consider the report and make an announcement on the route later this year.

The first phase of the high-speed line is expected to be completed by around 2026 and will reduce London to Birmingham rail times by 32 minutes.

A second Y-shaped phase, taking the line to north-east and north-west England and beyond, is due to be completed by around 2032/33.

Elected mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones said she will fight to ensure the town does not lose out as a result of the decision, which had come as a shock.

Ms Jones, said: "I support the national HS2 project and recognise its importance to our country. However, I am shocked and surprised by these significant last-minute changes. They have never been suggested during the last four years so it is extremely disappointing that local people and our communities are being put in this position at the 11th hour.

"I understand the financial challenges facing the project, but saving money must not be achieved at the expense of people living in Doncaster, South Yorkshire and the wider Sheffield City Region."

She said: "I cannot support any proposal which reduces job creation and economic growth forecasts unless alternative growth mechanisms are in place, and I will certainly not back any proposal where people in communities like Mexborough and Denaby take a hit on jobs, housing or quality of life without significant benefits in return."

Ms Jones said she has arranged a meeting with the Transport Secretary.

Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake welcomed the announcement.

She said: "We now need Government to prioritise their phase two route decision and make a strong commitment to deliver this project at the earliest opportunity."