As news reports this week have identified, there remain significant concerns about the delivery of HS2, particularly the planned HS2 station in South Yorkshire which has been moved from a Meadowhall location in Sheffield to a new route with a spur line serving a station in Sheffield City Centre. This has been be highlighted as an example of the significant uncertainty surrounding this major transport infrastructure investment. In July, HS2 Ltd recommended to the Department for Transport that the planned HS2 station in South Yorkshire should be moved from Meadowhall to the existing Sheffield Midland city centre station as part of a cost cutting exercise to save some £700m. The revised option would see the HS2 service from Sheffield be provided off a spur from the main new north-south high speed line. This option could also facilitate a stop in Chesterfield.
Following that report, the Government’s Public Accounts Committee has highlighted uncertainty in respect of HS2’s integration with the transport system, particularly with the proposed rail investment in the North of England. The report prepared identified that phase two of HS2, connecting the West Midlands to Crewe and Manchester to Leeds, must be firmed up urgently while singling out the uncertainty surrounding the scheme’s presence in South Yorkshire. Given the route of the new line and infrastructure will have a significant impact on existing residents and businesses, the varying position is likely to undermine the strategic vision of the government in delivering HS2. Land which was previously likely to be sterilised by the route to the Meadowhall Station is now potentially free from the anticipated compulsory purchase orders associated with such infrastructure development. This will have an impact on landowners as well as potentially impacting the preparation of Local Plans where transport infrastructure and opportunities to develop hub stations and associated amenities need to be taken into account.
The Chair of the Accounts Committee stated the lack of clarity over the plans was demonstrative of what is at stake for communities and local economies, and why the government must explain its intentions in respect of when the line will open, where it will go and what it will cost in a transparent manner. The announcement that HS2 Ltd’s chief executive Simon Kirby has stood down to join Rolls-Royce has, it was added, contributed to further adds to the uncertainty.