Chesterfield Civic Society HS2 Debate
Over 30 members and guests met at St Thomas’s church centre on February 28 for a Civic Society discussion meeting on ‘Do we want HS2 in North East Derbyshire?’.
Andrew Pritchard, representing East Midland Cities and Transport for the East Midlands, outlined the strategic case for the north-eastern leg of the high speed railway.
Explaining the need for greater capacity for passenger services between London and major cities on the route, he emphasised that the proposed hub at Toton would be the most important station on the system outside London, bringing enormous employment benefits to that part of the region.
Enhanced opportunities, especially for young people in the poorer areas of north-east Derbyshire, was a theme stressed by the Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, Coun. Mrs Tricia Gilby. She mentioned the high quality skilled jobs that would be created, directly and indirectly, by HS2, and the scope to develop tourism by encouraging more visitors to come to Chesterfield by train. Coun. Gilby showed new architect’s drawings of the proposed remodelling of the station approach, including a large car-park, seamless integration with bus services, and a pedestrian walkway into the town centre.
A note of caution was expressed by Glynn Waite, a railway consultant, who detailed the congestion on the existing Clay Cross–Sheffield line and showed how trains could be seriously delayed for any of several reasons. These included lack of capacity on the adjoining Dore–Chinley line and the poor track layout at Sheffield station. Mr Waite felt that these problems must be tackled before plans are made to run high speed trains on the Midland Main Line.
Finally, Tony Mellors spoke on behalf of a community group in Blackwell and Newton, near Alfreton, opposed to the building of a link from the Erewash Valley line to Clay Cross, since this will sever communities in their area. Over 20 houses will have to be demolished, some only a few years old, which has already caused distress to longstanding local residents. Aided by slide showing a white elephant, Mr Mellors argued that HS2 was likely to cost much more than currently predicted and was a poor use of public money.
The escalating cost of the project and questionable claims for the benefit-cost ratio were among the points raised during a lively discussion at the end of the meeting. In reply, Mr Pritchard pointed out that the north-eastern leg had the best commercial prospects of any part of HS2, and Coun. Gilby emphasised that the Borough Council’s ‘local labour’ clause in all its building contracts would ensure that jobs connected with HS2 came to the town.