HS2 review rejects Meadowhall as South Yorkshire hub
It looks unlikely that Meadowhall will be selected as the South Yorkshire hub station for HS2. A report reviewing options favours an alternative plan using ‘classic-compatible’ trains to Sheffield Midland and re-aligning the rest of the high speed route eastwards along the M1/M18.
“The decision as to where to locate the HS2 station in South Yorkshire has proved one of the most difficult we have faced,” says Sir David Higgins; the HS2 chairman tasked with reviewing the government’s 2013 decision to site the station at Meadowhall.
“That difficulty, in part, is due to topography. The hills on which Sheffield is built, the Porterbrook, Sheaf Don and Dearne rivers and their flood plains, as well as the industrial legacy of mine workings and heavy industry in the area make building a reliable high speed line and station there both complex and costly.”
The choice of Meadowhall has been controversial from the start. HS2 has not enjoyed the consensus found elsewhere for other proposed high speed station locations. An Ipsos MORI survey found 935 responses for and 543 against Meadowhall; passenger inconvenience and the distance from the main Sheffield Midland station being the primary concern.
Another reason why the review is on the cards is the Northern Transport Strategy drawn up between the government and Transport for the North (TfN) in March 2015. This aspires to improve links between the six largest northern cities, especially Sheffield and Leeds. The Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) plan envisages increasing frequencies to 6 trains per hour and cutting journey times to 30 minutes between these two cities. (The current best time is 40 minutes and the average is around 55/65 minutes).
The government is keen that HS2 and NPR should complement each other; the former was conceived before the latter and accordingly now needs reviewing.
Higgins examined four different service options:
- a high speed station at Meadowhall
- a high speed station at Sheffield Midland
- a high speed station at Sheffield Victoria
- a classic-compatible spur serving Sheffield Midland station
(1) Meadowhall doesn’t really fit in well with NPR’s aspirations for Sheffield-Leeds though it provides good links to parts of South Yorkshire. Congestion at Meadowhall is already a problem and acquisition of land there would be expensive. After weighing up the pros and cons, Higgins damningly concludes, “there have been sufficient new elements to make us pause and re-consider if it (Meadowhall) still meets our two primary criteria as a project: standing the test of time and being the right strategic answer. After careful analysis, the answer is no.”
(2) Constructing a high speed link to Sheffield Midland station would cost an additional £2bn. A new station (and connecting spurs) would be required (since Midland would be unable to cope with the additional traffic) and the disruption to services could last years: “We do not think Sheffield Midland is a viable alternative,” maintains Higgins.
(3) Constructing a high speed link (and connecting spurs) to Sheffield Victoria would cost an additional £700m. The station was closed to passenger traffic in 1970 and demolished but the site is Sheffield City Council’s favoured option. However, Victoria is a 10-15 minute walk away from the Midland station and it would not be able to accommodate other services so another nearby station – Victoria East – would have to be built also.
(4) Options 1-3 involve utilising full size HS2 stock that can only be used on the high speed network, whereas ’classic-compatible’ stock can run on existing lines as well. Option 4 would separate traffic to Sheffield (by using classic-compatible stock) from other northbound HS2 services to Leeds and beyond. This would be achieved through constructing new spurs to the Midland Main Line north and south of Sheffield to serve the Midland station on a loop, but routing the other northern high speed traffic onto an eastward HS2 re-alignment along the M1/M18 corridor.
The re-alignment would be mainly in open country avoiding built up areas and industrial workings.
This option also fits in better with the NPR requirement for Leeds-Sheffield (and could also be used by Leeds-Birmingham HS2 trains). It is also the cheapest one involving less construction work and it would save £1bn on Meadowhall.
The decision on where to build the new South Yorkshire station now rests with the transport secretary who will decide later in the year.
|Summary of main options|
|Station location||Route||Journey time: London-Sheffield (current c. 2hrs)||Estimated cost impact|
|via Don Valley/M1||68 mins to Meadowhall c.78 mins to Midland sta||Base case|
|(2) Sheffield Midland, high speed||via city centre||66 mins to Sheffield Midland||+ £2bn|
|(3) Sheffield Victoria, high speed||via city centre||69 mins to Sheffield Victoria + c. 10 mins to Sheffield Midland||+ £700m|
|(4) Sheffield Midland, ‘classic’||Main line via M1/18; spurs to Sheffield Midland||83 mins to Sheffield Midland (inc. Chesterfield stop)||– £1bn|