Doncaster is a railway town. We produced some of the world’s most famous locomotives and soon we will have the National College for High Speed Rail, a result of HS2, which will train thousands of engineers and, I hope, be a door to opportunity.
Phase one of the HS2 Project runs from London to Birmingham. Phase two will go to Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. We have always accepted it wouldn’t stop in Doncaster, already better connected than some other places in the region. We supported the project because of the opportunities it should create through the college and wider economic development in the City Region.
That wider economic development was created by the line going into Meadowhall. That has always been the plan throughout the project.
As many people now know, HS2 have now proposed to shift the route east to go through my constituency, including Mexborough, and near surrounding villages like Barnburgh, Hickleton, and Hooton Pagnell.
It would go slap bang through a new housing estate in Mexborough, and other homes, and it has been heart-breaking to meet those affected. People moved into their dream homes, and then were told HS2 was coming. What’s more, the new route would affect other land in Mexborough earmarked for housing development.
I am determined to stand up for my constituents who will be affected by these proposals. This means working with Mayor Ros Jones, and Doncaster Council, and other authorities, to make the best case we can for an alternative.
We continue to believe Meadowhall was the right economic choice for the whole of the City Region, with its existing rail, tram, road and bus links. We will make that case: against the new route and for the original plan. We are also going to demand that HS2 look at the alternatives local people have been putting forward since the route was announced.
We are demanding answers to the questions local people have. About the impact construction would have on their lives, and what the result would mean for them in terms of sound and visual impact. About the compensation that would be offered if the route was chosen which must take into account local circumstances, like the lack of equivalent affordable housing. And about who can actually benefit from the compensation.
It is clear there are unanswered questions about the route, its impact and alternatives. I have met local people as well as councillors since the announcement. I am determined to fight the corner of my constituents. For all the people whose lives have been turned upside down by these proposals. That’s what I will be doing in the weeks and months ahead.