And in other HS2 news…

This is slightly off-topic for a cycling website so read no further if you’re not interested.

I went to the HS2 consultation at King Ecgberts, Totley, last night. They had large scale maps of the route, lots of hard copies of the consultation document (badged as an equality assessment) and lots of eager young people there to answer your questions. I had a chat with a couple of them – the first thing I noticed was that the “loop” that is supposed to come off the HS2 main line at Clay Cross so Sheffield trains can join the MML only gets as far as Sheffield,

As previously announced, trains were supposed to continue north on the MML, come off on another link line at Conisbrough where the line would plough through a recently built housing estate, then re-join the HS2 main line to Leeds. The government has committed to electrify the MML from Clay Cross to Sheffield, they are hoping that a “3rd Party” (Sheffield City Region?) will fund the missing link.

What this potentially means is that the HS2 trains will, at least initially, terminate and turn around at Sheffield, adding to the already existing congestion problems between Clay Cross and Sheffield and at Sheffield itself (already the slower EMT service to London has to chunter off and find a siding at Nunnery to hide in before coming back into Sheffield to set off back to London) This in turn would mean that those bright young creatives who would be whizzing off to Leeds on HS2 to work at Channel 4, as was stated on look north the other night, actually will be using the Cross Country or Northern Connect services, which will still take the best part of an hour, so why wouldn’t they use HS2 and go and work in London  where the wages are higher, for the sake of an extra half-hour on the train?

My other point was, I often travel to points on the MML between Sheffield and London – will I still be able to do that? Oh yes they said, but they couldn’t really explain how. When the main traffic between Sheffield and London is whizzing down HS2 it will be much less viable to maintain a regular stopping service on the MML I cited St Albans as an example – already a tricky journey as you have to change at Leicester and somewhere “under the wires”  – usually Luton Airport Parkway – to get there at the moment. One option would be to travel on HS2 to Euston, make my way to St Pancras and go back north to the city (it is a city because it’s got a cathedral) but it seems daft to me to have to travel and extra 60 miles to get to somewhere you’ve already gone past & since what I usually do then is cycle across to see relatives in E. Herts why wouldn’t I just go to Liverpool St and get a direct train there?  So there is a risk of losing connectivity between S. Yorkshire, the East Midlands and South-East.

I also asked them about the HS2 National Cycleway  – they didn’t know anything about that. I didn’t ask them whether the trains would carry bikes as they didn’t seem to be the right people to ask, but I will be making that point when I respond to the consultation.  (The HS2 National Cycleway Feasibility Study, completed in 2016 but only recently released by the Government, included a case study on Wakefield to Bolsover.   If this were to be implemented it would be a major upgrade to the Trans-Pennine Trail and could form the backbone of a South Yorkshire cycle network. The catch of course is that the govt is not providing any funding for the cycleway, suggesting that council should fund it themselves. )

The good news is that HS2 won’t obliterate the Trans-Pennine Trail in NE Derbyshire and Sth. Yorks as we previously feared – the new alignment more or less follows the M1 route to the east of the area rather than the Rother & Blackburn valleys. There are still likely to be access issues and folks further down south are very concerned about losing rights of way that are cut by the line – as a Project Manager myself I understand how tempting it will be to de-scope anything that is not essential to the operation of the line as budgets tighten, and indeed we saw that in Sheffield when Supertram was initially put in, hence the truncation of the crossing of Upper Hanover Way for example which has taken 20 years restore.

Whether you’re for or agin HS2 I think these are all matters to be considered.

Other consultations upcoming in SY are listed here.