A CALL has been made for land set aside for HS2’s scrapped “M18 route” to have its safeguarded status lifted to provide reassurance to residents.
The Government confirmed in November that the eastern leg through Rotherham would not be going ahead, with Sheffield served on existing lines and no new track between there and Leeds.
But while the announcement delighted residents and campaigners living along what had been the proposed line alongside the M18 motorway, the land’s development protection status remains in place.
Rotherham Council leader Cllr Chris Read said: “It is understandable that the government need to keep options open for the route north out of Sheffield towards Leeds, but that should not come at the detriment of homeowners who do not live along that corridor.
“I would urge the government to lift the safeguarded land designations across big parts of Rotherham, places like Aston, Wales Bar and Bramley, which will not be part of any route out of Sheffield up to Leeds, at the earliest opportunity to give real peace of mind to those communities.
“We welcome the government’s consideration of how the route north of Sheffield towards Leeds can be improved, and indeed the re-commitment to electrification of the Midland Mainline.
“Improved journey times between the two cities will bring real benefits to our region. We would urge the government to prioritise this work.”
Meanwhile, the use of Sheffield Midland station for HS2 trains is expected to have an impact on capacity at Rotherham Central, with improvements needed at both sites.
RMBC is developing a scheme with Transport for the North to deliver a combined mainline train and tram station in Rotherham.
“We want to see big improvements to rail connectivity, not simply to defend the current poor status quo,” said Cllr Read.
“At a stroke, this would hugely improve our rail access to Leeds, Nottingham and cities beyond.
“TfN identified that a new Mainline station in Rotherham would be a relatively straightforward scheme for delivery within three to four years and we are keen that this is recognised within government.”
In addition, there is also the opportunity to bring a new local station to Waverley, further easing the congestion at Sheffield Midland.
Cllr Read has written to transport secretary Grant Schapps to ask for an update on these ambitions and with a call for the safeguarded land status to be lifted.
He said in his letter, the RMBC leader said: “Rotherham has ambitious plans to increase rail use in our borough, and to better connect our residents to mainline rail services and the associated economic opportunities they would bring to our residents.
“While welcoming the government’s change of plan for HS2 Phase 2B, we continue to press the case to better use funding saved from the modification of the HS2 project.
“We have specific and deliverable projects under development and want to see funding and regulatory certainty as quickly as possible to ensure that our communities do not lose out.
“This would not only serve local interests but also the wider improvement of transport networks in the north.”