I was shocked to learn of the significant changes to the HS2 project, announced last week.
The new proposals would save the Government £1 billion but people in Doncaster and South Yorkshire must not suffer due to this.
I cannot support any proposal which reduces job creation and economic growth forecasts unless alternative growth mechanisms are in place. I will certainly not back any proposal where people in communities like Mexborough take a hit on jobs, housing, quality of life and future growth without significant benefits in return.
First in my mind are the people whose homes and communities will be directly affected. I have spoken to residents and I am working along with councillors and MPs to support them, and fight on their behalf.
I have spoken to the Secretary of State to express concerns and will be continuing that dialogue with the Government.
People ask my views on the overall proposed changes to HS2 in South Yorkshire.
In my experience it is always best to fully understand a proposal and its implications before rushing to welcome it. In terms of the wider issue of regional job creation and economic growth, it is important we analyse the details. That is what we are now doing, but some of the initial information does raise concern.
For example, under the previous proposal, getting HS2 from London to Meadowhall would have taken 68 minutes. There could have been up to six trains per hour. HS2 estimated travelling on to the city centre, if that is where you wanted to go, would take a total of 78 minutes.
The new spur into Sheffield Midland, on slower tracks, will take 83 minutes and carry “up to two trains per hour”.
In fact, using HS2 services you could get from London to Leeds more quickly than London to Sheffield.
The report is also unclear when it comes to a number of other important issues. The proposals do not commit to a northern link back on to the main HS2 line to Leeds. Similarly there is no commitment to a parkway station in South Yorkshire. The level of connectivity to Birmingham is unclear. It appears we may now be getting a service which is less frequent, slower, with no guaranteed connection to Leeds and perhaps even Birmingham. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound like a good deal.
It isn’t what South Yorkshire campaigned for.
I fear that the future economic prospects of our area may be being compromised to save £1bn. I understand the financial challenges, but saving money must not be achieved at our expense.
I will therefore ensure these proposals are properly scrutinised and that we hold the Government to account.