HS2 has been accused of using “sleight of hand” to justify major changes to the proposed high speed rail route through South Yorkshire.
Councils and MPs in South Yorkshire have launched a last-ditch attempt to stop HS2’s plan to radically alter the route and move the area’s proposed station from Meadowhall to Sheffield city centre.
Doncaster Council has now submitted a 23-page analysis of the revised plan to HS2 Ltd, the Government-owned company behind the new rail line, claiming it will cost more money, create fewer jobs, lead to longer journey times and fewer trains.
Construction on phase one of the HS2 high speed line, between London and Birmingham, is due to begin later this year. Phase two will see the line follow a Y-shape north of Birmingham with the western leg heading to Manchester and the eastern leg to leeds.
The line was originally supposed to snake between Sheffield and Rotherham, with a new station at Meadhowhall.
But last year HS2 Ltd announced a revised plan with a spur taking some services off the main line and into the existing Sheffield station with the Meadowhall stop scrapped.
The route of the main line was also moved further east between Rotherham and Doncaster.
A major justification was a saving of £1bn on HS2’s construction costs.
But the Doncaster Council document says “through sleight of hand” some of the costs of the new route have been passed to other organisations and “therefore conveniently omitted from the costs associated with the HS2 project”.
Taking into account the additional costs “more than wipe out the claimed £1bn saving”, it says.
Work commissioned by Doncaster and Rotherham councils suggests the economic impact of the original route would be 75 per cent bigger and it would create 45 per cent more jobs than the revised plan.
Doncaster mayor Ros Jones said: “The new proposal is the wrong solution for the Sheffield City Region, Yorkshire and the North, and it is the wrong solution for UK PLC.
“It is the option that nobody wanted.”
South Yorkshire MPs Ed Miliband, Sir Kevin Barron, Caroline Flint, John Healey, Angela Smith and Dame Rosie Winterton have added their voices to the call for a change of heart.
In a joint statement they said: “It is clear that by every test the new M18 spur route is not in the best interests of the South Yorkshire region.
“The new route will result in slower journey times, fewer, smaller trains and will not provide the economic benefits to the wider region in comparison to the previous Meadowhall option.”
The route and station location was changed following a campaign by Sheffield City Council and the city’s business community.
But the alterations have angered the city’s neighbours who believe they will now shoulder the disruption caused by HS2’s construction without securing benefits.