A LETTER from six MPs demanding that the proposed HS2 high speed rail route is dropped has been sent to Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.
The letter was sent as part of the consultation on the route from Aston and Bramley up to Mexborough and the Dearne Valley, with a slower spur off to Sheffield Midland station.
The six Labour MPs from South Yorkshire — including two from Rotherham — have urged a switch back to a route via a station at Meadowhall.
Ed Miliband (Doncaster North), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Angela Smith (Penistone and Stockbridge) and Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) said in their letter that the M18 route was ill-judged.
The MPs said: “The Meadowhall route provides faster journey times, better prospects for regeneration and jobs, and more capacity, at very similar cost.
“The reality is that the M18 route is a badly thought out, ill-judged compromise option, which nobody outside HS2 truly supports.”
The letter claimed that when HS2 originally backed the Meadowhall option it was because of its “excellent connections”, whereas the M18 route would only have a slower spur rail line link, limiting connectivity and train numbers.
The MPs said that a study by Doncaster Council had concluded “the Meadowhall option would lead to 45 per cent more jobs being created and a greater economic benefit of up to 75 per cent for the whole region” and even an “afterthought” parkway station for the M18 route would not solve the problems.
The letter claimed that HS2 had said that construction difficulties for Meadowhall “can be overcome” and that HS2 had shown a “lack of knowledge” about the M18 route — such as being apparently unaware of the Shimmer estate in Mexborough which it now wants to build a rail line through — so that it had not been fully investigated.
The MPs said that the £860m savings of switching the line from Meadowhall were “illusory” as electrification of a northern loop from Sheffield Midland, the building of a parkway station and other factors had not been taken into account.
The MPs said: “The new route results in less connectivity for the wider region, increased journey times, poorer economic growth, fewer jobs and puts a limit on HS2’s capacity to increase services in response to a growth in demand.”
Rotherham Borough Council leader Chris Read echoed the MPs’ views.
“We have said throughout that if the government is to build this major piece of national infrastructure they should site the station at Meadowhall, in terms of the benefits that this would bring to Rotherham and the wider City Region, and have made this view clear to the government and HS2 Ltd,” he said.
“The M18/spur proposal would offer “a second class service for Rotherham” and mean “fewer, slower and smaller trains”, with economic benefits restricted as result.
The new route would actually be no cheaper to build than the Meadowhall option and £1.7 billion more expensive to run over its lifetime, Cllr Read said.
Sheffield City Council has repeated its support for the proposed route as long as a northern loop to Leeds from Sheffield Midland is developed.
In its response to the HS2 consultation, council leader Cllr Julie Dore said the authority welcomed the inclusion of Sheffield station rather than Meadowhall in the plans.
But she added: “Our support for the route through South Yorkshire is predicated on the development of a northern loop and junction as this would enable the achievement of the NPR (Northern Powerhouse Rail) Sheffield to Leeds aspiration as well.”