HIGH SPEED rail services connecting the North’s major cities have moved a step closer after the Government published its latest plans for HS2.
Confirming much of the previously proposed route for HS2 through Yorkshire, ministers also set out plans for a new rail junction in South Yorkshire that would pave the way for high speed services to run between Sheffield, Leeds and other northern cities.
Previous proposals would have seen northbound HS2 services to Sheffield taking a spur off the mainline near Chesterfield into to the city centre and terminating there.
However the suggested new junction near Clayton would allow high speed trains to go through the city in both directions.
It is likely the same piece of track would be used to connect Sheffield into future high speed services crossing the Pennines.
Plans for trans-Pennine high speed rail, dubbed HS3 or Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), are already underway.
Today’s announcement revealed that a plan for how HS2 and HS3 will work together should be in place by the end of next year.
Following speculation that Theresa May’s Government could water down its commitment to high speed rail, Transport Minister Andrew Jones, the Harrogate and Knaresborough MP, said the announcement underlined the Government’s backing for both schemes.
He said: “This project is not being developed in isolation. It is certainly being developed with HS3 and other transport plans in mind for the future.
“Our ambitions to have east-west connectivity are undimmed. It is not having one or the other, it is a question of having both.
“We are just further advanced with the planning on Hs2.”
The Government announced a £900m contract which will mark the start of construction on phase one of HS2, between London and Birmingham, next year.
Business leaders in Yorkshire welcomed the commitment to phase two of the project, which will see the line extend north to Manchester in the west and Sheffield and Leeds to the east.
Gerald Jennings, president of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said “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.”
On its current timetable, the second phase of HS2 is due to be completed by 2033 although there is considerable scepticism that target will be met.
THE Government has been urged to look again at the idea of constructing sections of HS2 in Yorkshire ahead of schedule to bring quicker improvements to local journeys.
Coun Keith Wakefield, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, said welcomed the proposals to integrate HS2 with emerging plans for trans-Pennine high speed rail services.
He added: “We will be continuing to impress on HS2 Ltd the importance of work with communities along the route on the local implications, and we will also be calling for construction of HS2’s Yorkshire leg to start, in Yorkshire, as soon as possible.”