What HS2 route through Chesterfield means for area
Chesterfield is set to be connected to the high-speed rail network after major changes were announced to the Â£55bn '˜HS2' project.
A report recommends that the main route be moved east - away from the much-loved Chesterfield canal - and that the town itself be served by a spur that will join existing tracks at Clay Cross.
The news - which would mean journey times from Chesterfield to London will come down to just one hour and 15 minutes - has been welcomed by politicians, business leaders and conservationists alike.
However, all sides are urging the government to make a decision quickly, not least the Canal Trust, who say lingering doubts about the project could still significantly impact their work.
Councillor John Burrows, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council and cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This will further strengthen Chesterfield’s position as a place to do business.
“We now need the Government to make a quick decision that there will definitely be a stop in Chesterfield as is being recommended to them and then get on with building the HS2 route.
“The report recognises the importance of the Chesterfield economy to the wider Sheffield City Region and its potential for growth as part of the devolution deal agreed by the Government.
“To deliver this we will work with our partners in Sheffield City Region, and those across Derbyshire and the East Midlands, to get the maximum benefit for Chesterfield from these proposals.”
The changes to the main route mean that the Chesterfield canal - which was to be crossed in five places by the line - will now only be impacted once.
Robin Stonebridge, chair of the Chesterfield Canal Trust, said the new route was ‘much, much better’ but said the final decision should be made as quickly as possible to allow the canal to move forward with its regeneration plans.
He said: “The great difficulty is that the original route has not yet been abandoned so we could now be doubly blighted.
“They have not yet said they are completely abandoning the original route so at the moment there are two routes open.
“With what is happening in the country at the moment the worst possible situation is for it to remain undecided and HS2 gets put into the long grass and those two routes remain open.
“We haven’t been able to go for grants on the route that was announced in 2013 because we can’t guarantee it will be able to be used by the public for 25 years - we have lost about £3 million in funding because of that.
“We really must have a decision from the Secretary of State quickly on this - it is absolutely essential that this blighting effect is removed for people and for businesses.”
The new plans suggest the town could have high-speed trains coming through twice an hour which would then travel on to Midland Station in Sheffield city centre before rejoining the main HS2 line further north.
The proposed maintenance depot in Staveley - which could bring hundreds of jobs to the borough - is still part of the plans and will be discussed at a public meeting in the Speedwell Rooms in Staveley on Wednesday July 20 (12.30-8pm).
Chis Hobson, director of policy at East Midlands Chamber, said that the scheme presented a ‘golden opportunity’ for the Government to be ‘really bold’.
He said: “Now that we have firm proposals and recommendations which have broad support across the Sheffield City Region and will make the project cheaper to deliver, we need confirmation and delivery of this phase of the scheme without delay.
“The opportunity to connect the East Midlands to Leeds via a hub station at Toton, along with the option to connect to businesses in Sheffield and through Chesterfield, would be a massive boon to businesses in both regions. Furthermore, the service depot at Staveley will create hundreds of jobs and underline the region’s traditional strengths and expertise in rail manufacturing and related services.
“In the current post-referendum climate, the Government has a golden opportunity to be really bold in terms of its infrastructure spending, to deliver a world-class UK transport network which will drive economic growth, make the UK an attractive place to invest and make it far easier for firms to move their goods and people to global markets.
“HS2 is a crucial part of the solution to boost connectivity north to south and east to west, which will also deliver the enhanced capacity we need in the long term.
“High speed rail is the best way to achieve a more sustainable, re-balanced economic future not just for the region, but for the nation as a whole and we are hopeful that today’s announcement will pave the way for that to be confirmed as quickly as possible.”
The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, will now consider the report in detail and make an announcement on the full route later this year.
It is hoped that the project will be completed by 2033.