If all goes to plan, the biggest infrastructure project in Western Europe will be coming to Derbyshire within six years.
After a stuttering start, the ‘HS2’ high-speed rail project got important Government backing in November.
As a result, the people who will drive the project through came to Staveley on Friday to let residents see the latest plans.
Most seemed happy with what they saw, not least the Chesterfield Canal Trust, which was badly affected by a previous route.
Head of community engagement for HS2, Stephen McFarlane, said that the new proposals had received a ‘very positive’ response so far.
He said: “The Government’s announcement in November that phase two will go ahead is a tremendous boost for Derbyshire.
It is a project that will change the face of Britain for the next century or more.Stephen McFarlane, head of community engagement for HS2
“HS2 can offer much better connectivity not just to London but to Yorkshire as well.
“But another core driver for HS2 is to cope with the increase in demand we have seen in the last 10-15 years and the demand we will see over the next 20, 50 and 100 years.
“It is a project that will change the face of Britain for the next century or more.”
Many residents who attended the drop-in session in the town’s Speedwell Rooms seemed pleased with the new route.
However, some still had misgivings about the project’s cost and how much the line would ultimately benefit local people.
As well as experiencing what HS2 will sound like as it makes its way through the county, those who attended were given the chance to ask the HS2 experts present questions on a wide range of issues.
Chief among people’s concerns was, unsurprisingly, the thorny issue of compensation for those nearest the track.
Others wanted to talk about the proposed Staveley maintenance depot - a plan which would bring 150 jobs, with the possibility of many more to come.
Since HS2 was first mooted, however, the most contentious issue for many has been the Chesterfield Canal.
A previous suggested route crossed the much-loved waterway a dozen or more times but representatives from the Trust said they were much happier with the new proposal.
Trustee, Rod Auton, said: “One of our frustrations is that we haven’t been able to apply for any grants for the last four years since the original route was announced.
“We had a bid for the Heritage Lottery Fund of £1.9million which was in the process of being submitted when it was announced and that had to be scrapped because it was blighted by the HS2 plans.
“But speaking to the people here now, as far as they are concerned, that route is dead now.
“Officially it isn’t but I have been advised that if we get in touch with the Secretary of State he might be able to give us a letter to pass on to the Lottery or other potential funders to say it would be OK for us to go ahead.
Mr Auton said that he had been told that the announcement would probably now be made in the early Autumn.
However, he said that having been originally promised an announcement in the Autumn of 2014, he wasn’t holding his breath.
If the final route is approved later this year, three years of environmental impact assessments would be followed by a full legislative process, with diggers arriving on site on 2023.
To find out how you might be affected by HS2, you can call the helpdesk on 020 7944 4908. The consultation will run until March 9.
What do you think?
Lilian Robinson, 72, from Killamarsh
“People were very upset about the original route but the new one is certainly an improvement.
“However, the actual time it will take for people to get to the stations - Chesterfield or Meadowhall - is still an issue.
“So I am still worried it might not be that easy for local people to use.”
Vic Hawksworth, 63, Calow
“I used to work in the railways himself and it all depends on the cost.
“I agree that it will take people away from the other lines and increase capacity in the system.
“But the stations are so far away from where many people live.”
Keith Feltham, Calow,
“HS2 seem to be keeping people involved but I haven’t seen a lot of information about the maintenance depot.
“I think this country ought to try to keep up with modern technology - we don’t want in 50 years time to be lagging behind.
“But the cost would be the main concern for me as well. How many billions?”
Mike Peat, 75, Sheffield
“The previous ran alongside the canal but this one diverts away - it is a great improvement.
“In terms of how the HS2 organisation was managing this new consultation, I couldn’t see how they could have done it better.
“But I know that some peoples homes may be effected and I hope they get their compensation.
Hazel Stimpson, 61, Staveley
“I think HS2 could be an opportunity to connect this area with Sheffield’s Supertram. It would mean the transport system would be better connected.”