Sheffield could miss out on an HS2 station altogether if it can’t unite behind one location, business minister Anna Soubry has warned.
On a visit to Sheffield she told The Star: “If you are looking at where to place something and everyone is falling out, the danger is you might miss out.
“The chairman of HS2 said he wanted the work to start up in Leeds now.
“I want the Toton station in my area, south of Sheffield, up and running.
“We need to get on with HS2, it’s a hugely important project. We need people to get together and sort this out or Sheffield might miss the opportunity and that’s the last thing I want to happen.”
The Star, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Chamber and hundreds of businesses have been campaigning for a city centre station due to the overwhelming economic benefit over the Government’s choice of a station at Meadowhall.
Ms Soubry said the Labour party needed to get in a room and sort it out.
She added: “When you’ve got a Labour city council and Labour MPs who don’t agree they have got to get together and sort it out.”
HS2 Ltd figures show a city centre station would create 6,500 more jobs and 1,000 extra homes, while its adviser, Genecon, says it would pump an extra £5 billion into the economy over 25 years.
HS2 could form the eastern leg of HS3 between Leeds and Sheffield – but only if the stations are in both city centres.
And a top engineer claims Meadowhall is the worst place to build an HS2 station because the rock beneath it is ‘mush’ due to a three-mile rock fault, posing a huge – and as yet uncosted – engineering challenge that could be greater than the cost of the city centre option.
Only last week HS2 chief Robert Goodwill said the door was still open for high speed rail to come to Sheffield city centre instead of Meadowhall and the weight of argument put forward for a city centre station meant the option was still being explored.
Ms Soubry has also appeared to make the case for a city centre station in Parliament.
As reported in the Star (May 11 edition) she said she didn’t need to be told what a great and wonderful city Sheffield is and she added: “It is an outstanding city. What I would say is I now hope they (South Yorkshire MPs) will make the case for HS2 having a proper station in Sheffield. We need to make sure Sheffield plays its part in HS2.”
Following her comments Mr Goodwill said his department’s position had not changed and that Sheffield remained the preferred station location.
He added that he recognised the arguments put forward for a city centre station in Sheffield and his department would continue to explore them.
Ms Soubry’s comments come after HS2 rumours that stations – including Sheffield Meadowhall – might be axed entirely in a bid to save money.
HS2 is designed to increase capacity on the railways, with 224mph trains slashing journey times. Officials continue to struggle to keep costs under control and reports have suggested that the budget jumped from £33bn to £42.6bn in 2013.
HS2 remains high on the city’s agenda. In February scores of top business brains signed an open letter to the Chancellor outlining why HS2 must be in the city centre.