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Clegg defends HS2 station decision

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg defended the decision to site the new Sheffield HS2 station three miles from the city centre as he predicted the project would help heal the UK's north-south economic divide.

Mr Clegg, who is MP for Sheffield Hallam, was speaking at the site of the proposed new station at the giant Meadowhall Shopping Centre, next to the M1.

He said the HS2 project was "good for the whole country and especially good in healing this north-south divide that we have in our economy for far, far too long."

Asked about criticism that the line will not run into Sheffield city centre, Mr Clegg said "The city centre option is not a cost-free one.

"It would be a lot more expensive and also the train link would be slower, which slightly defeats the purpose of the whole exercise."

The Deputy Prime Minister said a route in central Sheffield would have cut through a 4,000 home community housing development, the state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham and a stretch of ancient woodland.

He said: "If you look at those balance of effects of one location versus another, most fair-minded people would conclude, as the Department for Transport has, that this is a better location."

Mr Clegg said: "Having the high-speed rail link just coming here for instance, in South Yorkshire, will lead to the creation of thousands of jobs.

"It'll mean that businesses here are much more connected with the rest of the country - only an hour from here down to London.

"That's close to halving the travel time from South Yorkshire to London and that'll create investment."

He went on: "I hope people will look objectively at the case that is being made by the Department for Transport for the Meadowhall option.

"Of course, what you need to do at the same time is investing in this location for the new high-speed station to make sure that the links to Meadowhall from the rest of Sheffield are improved as well."

Tim Hale, chair of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce's Transport Forum, said: "At last the announcement over the high-speed rail station has been made.

"While some may wish to have seen it closer to Sheffield city centre, on balance the connectivity of Meadowhall to the whole of the city region is probably better.

"Now the Government must address the resulting issues.

"It is important that those who are negatively affected by the announcement have their fears dispelled quickly.

"The authorities need to resolve such problems quickly and efficiently so that businesses are not affected, and lives not blighted, by worry over what will happen, when it will happen and how quickly compensation will arrive.

"Getting this right will go a long way to ensuring that HS2 will be good for the regional economy."

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commence, said: "This is good news for the Sheffield city region, but it is only the start of a lot of work ahead to bring an effective high-speed rail system to the area.

"Plans must be created now to ensure the station is properly connected to all areas of the city region. This includes improving parking and the existing transport networks around the Meadowhall area."

Mr Wright said some questions remained, including over improvements to the nearby M1 and linking the Meadowhall site to other transport infrastructure.

The Department for Transport said the Meadowhall station will be connected to Sheffield Midland station, in the city centre, by a link with a five-minute journey time and nine trains per hour in peak times.

A spokesman said this would mean a time saving of more than 40 minutes on the journey from Sheffield Midland to London and 23 minutes to Birmingham.

He said HS2 is also expected to support the creation of around 5,000 jobs in the station development regeneration areas around Meadowhall and he explained how the station's location would connect well with Rotherham, Barnsley and beyond to Wakefield, Doncaster, Scunthorpe, Leeds and Manchester.

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