‘Classic’ train route to London wins every time over HS2

From: Andrew Cook CBE, Chairman, William Cook Holdings Ltd, Sheffield.

I DISAGREE with James Newman’s assessment of the value of HS2 to the South Yorkshire economy (The Yorkshire Post, May 13). The locations of its stations at Sheffield and Chesterfield compare favourably with HS2 at Meadowhall and Toton on the outskirts of Nottingham, both of which are much harder to reach for much of the present passenger catchment.

Its direct link with Eurostar and ThamesLink at St Pancras offers easy connections to Paris, Brussels and beyond, and to Gatwick Airport.

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It has stations very 
close to Luton and East 
Midlands airports. Finally, the Piccadilly line at St Pancras provides a frequent, though admittedly slow, service to Heathrow.

HS2 has none of these advantages. Its terminus at Euston lacks any proper link to Eurostar and ThamesLink, and the best access to Heathrow can only be achieved via a messy interchange at Old Oak Common.

In effect, such modest gains in journey time which HS2 may provide will be more than offset by the longer and more inconvenient journeys at either end.

Time-saving per se is of limited value. I find the two hour journey to London about the right length to catch up with reading and emails. The direct connections at St Pancras are extremely convenient. If I am given the choice between trekking to Meadowhall or Toton to catch an HS2 train which lands me up at Euston, or taking the “classic” train from Sheffield or Chesterfield to St Pancras, I will take the classic train every time.

I believe South Yorkshire would benefit far more, and more quickly and cheaply, from a high-quality road link to Manchester Airport as a long overdue replacement for the slow, congested and anachronistic Woodhead and Snake routes.

In addition to the already planned electrification of the “classic” Midland Main Line, the Hope Valley line should also be electrified and equipped with better trains for the direct Manchester Airport rail service. The inexcusably congested drop off and pick up area at Sheffield station should be radically expanded. More ticketing staff should be hired to reduce the frequently long queues of would-be passengers waiting to buy tickets.

Finally, Sheffield Airport should be compulsorily purchased from its owners and re-opened as a key municipal facility.