A HIGH SPEED rail station planned for Sheffield is to be in the city centre after plans for a stop at the nearby Meadowhall shopping centre were dropped.
The proposed change of site was revealed as it was claimed by a public spending watchdog that the High Speed 2 rail project between London and Yorkshire is under financial strain and could be delayed by a year.
The National Audit Office (NAO) warned today that the 2026 target date for opening phase one between the capital and the West Midlands is “at risk”.
According to the Department of Transport and HS2 Ltd, which are under intense pressure to save money on the £55.7billion project, the switch of station in Sheffield between Meadowhall and the city’s Midland railway station would save £768 million.
It is understood a spur will run off the main north-south route to Sheffield. Sir David Higgins, chair of HS2 Ltd, was in Sheffield yesterday briefing city region leaders about the planned switch. An official report, expected to recommend the changes, is set to be published on Thursday, July 7, in a victory for campaigners who lobbied for a station in the city centre.
The move maximises the economic impact of high speed rail - as figures showed that, compared to Meadowhall, it would create 6,500 more jobs, 1,000 more homes and pump up to £5bn into the economy.
It would also avoid the need for a colossal two-mile viaduct on fractured rock at Meadowhall and offer better connections with the rest of Sheffield City Region.
It was today revealed by the National Audit Office that the Department for Transport (DfT) has asked the company responsible for building the railway, HS2 Ltd, to assess the impact of extending its timetable by up to 12 months.
The DfT has also called on the firm to revisit its schedule in a bid to increase its confidence of completing phase one on time from 60 per cent to 80 per cent without increasing costs.
But Transport Minister Robert Goodwill insisted that HS2 is “on track” despite the NAO warning that the £55.7 billion railway is facing financial pressures.
Cost forecasts for phase one exceed available funding by £204 million, while phase two - taking the line to north-east and north-west England - contains some elements that are “currently unfunded”, the report said.
It went on to warn that the benefit-cost ratio of the scheme could fall from 1.7 to 1.5 if the programme is not delivered well within available funding.
The NAO noted that although significant progress has been made in preparing to deliver the project - including some major procurements for phase one - the timetable set by the Department was “too ambitious”.
Ben Ruse, head of news at HS2, said: “We can’t comment on speculation in advance of the report on HS2 in South Yorkshire which is due in early July.”