Ministers are proposing a new junction on the planned HS2 route in South Yorkshire that would allow high speed services to run between Sheffield, Leeds and other northern cities.
The announcement also revealed that a plan for how HS2 and proposals for trans-Pennine high speed rail will work together should be in place by the end of next year.
The details emerged as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced the confirmation of much of the route of phase two of HS2 which will see the line split north of Birmingham with one arm heading to Yorkshire and the other to the North West.
The Government is proposing to accept revised plans tabled by HS2 earlier this year which will see major changes to the proposed route in South Yorkshire.
A paper published by Mr Grayling this morning agreed in principle with the creation of a city centre station in Sheffield and the line taking a route further east that could save around £1bn in construction costs.
The original plan was for services to stop in South Yorkshire at a new station at Meadowhall.
The paper also confirmed the revised plan for Leeds where the existing station will now undergo a major overhaul to accommodate HS2 rather than the construction of a new station on the city’s South Bank.
However, a proposed viaduct to carry the line at Woodlesford will now be replaced by a 1.6km tunnel.
Homeowners most affected by the proposed route of HS2 through Yorkshire will now be able to apply to the Government to buy their home.
Questions have hung over how HS2 will connect with the less advanced plans for high speed trans-Pennine rail services, known as HS3 or Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Today’s announcement begins to answer them with proposals for the first time showing how services arriving from the south into Sheffield city centre could be allowed to rejoin the mainline and continue north.
A consultation is being launched on the idea that HS2 services could use the existing Leeds-Sheffield line before reconnecting to the high speed line via a junction at Clayton.
It is likely the same connection would be used to connect Sheffield into high speed trans-Pennine services.
Leeds Chamber of Commerce President Geral Jennings said: 2
Gerald Jennings, President of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said “HS2 will be the biggest single investment in the north of England in a generation and will transform rail journeys between some of the UK’s largest cities. Today’s announcement brings a degree of certainty which in turn will encourage further business investment in the region. HS2 will improve connectivity and create greater capacity for increased rail patronage something we know influences where businesses locate. A track is yet to be laid and already we have seen positive moves from developers who see Leeds and the wider city region as a place to invest.
“We are also pleased to see reference to Northern Powerhouse Rail, ensuring that HS2 is not built in isolation but that thought is given to future East-West connectivity and the creation of a high speed network across the north of England.”
Residents around Woodlesford, near Leeds, have mounted a vocal campaign over the original plan to route HS2 over a viaduct and today’s revised plans show the train will instead pass through a tunnel.
Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke said: “or four years we have campaigned against a proposed branch line that would have seen twenty metre tall concrete viaducts within metres of nearby homes. I’ve worked closely with Ministers and officials to put forward sensible alternatives and I’m delighted that the Government has now acted upon those requests.
“The new tunnel will be deeper than the deepest underground station in central London and will remove the imposed blight for residents in Woodlesford. This is a victory for local residents and the campaign we have led, helped in no part by Leeds City Council whose vocal support for our re-route suggestion was deafeningly silent over the past four years”.
The HS2 project took a major step forward this morning as Mr Grayling announced a £900m contract to enable the construction of phase one of HS2, between London and Birmingham, can begin next year.
Mr Grayling said: “Our railways owe much to the Victorian engineers who pioneered them, but we cannot rest on their legacy when we face overcrowding and capacity problems.
“HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the Government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century; one that works for all and makes clear to the world that Britain remains open for business.
“The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day. They represent the greatest upgrade to our railway in living memory.
“But while it will bring significant benefits, I recognise the difficulties faced by communities along the route. They will be treated with fairness, compassion and respect and, as with Phase One, we intend to introduce further compensation which goes over and above what is required by law.”