Sheffield & South Yorkshire

HS2 South Yorkshire route change threatens new estate

HS2 train Image copyright HS2

A new housing estate could be bulldozed if changes to the planned high-speed rail route HS2 go ahead.

HS2 has announced a new route through South Yorkshire, scrapping a proposed station in Meadowhall in favour of a stop in Sheffield city centre.

People living on the Shimmer estate in Mexborough have been told that "some or all of their land" may be required if the plans are approved.

Resident Amie Webster told the BBC the "bottom has fallen out of our world".

The newly proposed route will run east towards the M18 before rejoining the original route south of the M62.

Meanwhile high-speed trains will use existing tracks to access Sheffield, stopping at the city's Midland station.

More on this and how South Yorkshire has reacted

Image caption Resident on the Shimmer estate received the news in a letter from HS2

Housing developer Strata said it was "shocked" by the news and was still "digesting the information" on how the changes affected people living on the estate, part of which is still being built.

Chief executive Andrew Weaver said: "Late yesterday afternoon the Strata team met with advisors from the Department of Transport and representatives for High Speed Two.

"During this meeting we were informed that properties within our Shimmer development, which is based in Mexborough, will be affected by the proposed changes to the HS2 route should this updated plan be approved.

"We are working closely with representatives to understand proposals so that we can be clear on what this may mean for our existing and future home owners... [and] we will be doing all that we can to support them during this time."

Image caption Construction work is still taking place at the site, with several new properties listed as sold

The letter to residents said: "A detailed plan for construction would not be developed until at least 2020, and would be subject to detailed scrutiny before approval by Parliament.

"If this plan is approved by the Secretary of State for Transport, it is likely that the Government would need to acquire some or all of your land or property in order to construct the railway."

David Higgins, of HS2 Ltd, said he understood the change of route would add to the uncertainty of those living on the original route and bring new fear to those on the newly proposed route.

"It's important that we give them certainty as soon as possible," he said.

"If we can lift the blight from those communities then the quicker the better.

"It's always the same with any change; some people who were impacted are no longer impacted while those previously not affected will be.

"There are less people impacted by this route, in terms of houses affected, but that's no consolation for those people."

He said he hoped the secretary of state would make a decision on the final route by the end of the year.

On the wider impact of the proposed changes, Mr Higgins claimed it would save more than £1bn and result in journey times to London of 79 minutes.

Image copyright HS2
Image caption The newly proposed route (purple) will pass between Rotherham and Doncaster as opposed to the original route (yellow) which passed between Sheffield and Rotherham

The proposed route would see up to two trains per hour leave the HS2 line near to Clay Cross, in Derbyshire, and join the existing line into Sheffield before rejoining HS2 east of Grimethorpe.

Mr Higgins said the location of the South Yorkshire station had proved "one of the most difficult" challenges, citing factors including the region's topography and flood plains.

Plans to build at Meadowhall attracted strong criticism when they were announced in 2013.

Sheffield City Council claimed a city centre station would create 6,500 more jobs, increase usage and generate up to £5bn more for the local economy.

Now, HS2 say the Meadowhall site would fail to cut journey times between northern cities - a target of the Northern Powerhouse Rail project - and could create problems with road congestion.

Asked if these issues could not have been foreseen Mr Higgins said: "I don't think so. I'm not sure everyone in the whole of South Yorkshire would have accepted the spur line.

"We had to work through the options and solutions in order to reach this decision and the more and more work we did the more complex Meadowhall became."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sheffield City Council claim a city centre station would create 6,500 more jobs in the region than one at Meadowhall

Relocating the station has also allowed planners to re-direct the HS2 line along the M18 before heading north between Rotherham and Doncaster and opens up the possibility of a parkway station being built to "serve the South Yorkshire area as a whole".

The HS2 report said the new route would be "easiest, result in less overall expected noise impact and be less expensive to build".

HS2 in South Yorkshire

£1bn

The new route is expected to shave more than £1bn off the cost of building HS2

  • 120mins Fastest existing Sheffield to London service

  • 79mins Fastest Sheffield to London service via HS2

HS2

Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore has previously described the decision to relocate the station as "fantastic news for Sheffield".

Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, also praised the announcement, saying he was "delighted".

However, elected mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones said she will fight to ensure the town does not lose out as a result of the decision.

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."

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".

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