Ed outlines why he believes the new HS2 route is not suitable and must change.
Doncaster is a railway town.
Historically, we have 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 for local young people.
Phase one of the HS2 Project runs from London to Birmingham. Phase two will go to Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. We have always accepted that it wouldn’t be stopping in Doncaster, already better connected than some other places in the region.
We have supported the project because of the opportunities it should create for local people through the college and wider economic development in the City Region, through greater connectivity between South and North, and increased rail capacity.
That wider economic development was created by the line going into Meadowhall. That has always been the plan throughout the project. And our expectation was that this is what would happen.
As many people now know, at the eleventh hour, HS2 have now proposed to shift the HS2 route east to go through my constituency, including Mexborough, and near surrounding villages like Barnburgh, Hickleton, and Hooton Pagnell.
The new proposed route will go slap bang through a new housing estate in Mexborough, and other homes, and it has been heart-breaking to meet those affected over the last few weeks. People moved into their dream homes, and then sometimes within weeks, or even days, were told that HS2 was coming. What’s more, the new route would affect other land in Mexborough that the council had earmarked for housing development.
I am determined to stand up for my constituents who will be affected by these proposals. Standing up for them means working with Mayor Ros Jones, and Doncaster Council, and other neighbouring authorities, to make the best case we can for an alternative.
We continue to believe that Meadowhall was the right economic choice for the whole of the City Region, with its existing rail, tram, road and bus links. And we will make that case: against the new route and for the original plan. We are also going to demand that HS2 look seriously at the alternatives that local people have been putting forward since the route was announced.
Beyond this, we are demanding answers to the genuine questions local people have. About the impacts that construction would have on their lives, and what the eventual 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, for example the lack of equivalent affordable housing. And about who can actually benefit from the compensation.
It is clear to me that there are many unanswered questions about the route, its impact and the alternatives. I have been meeting local people as well as Doncaster Council and local and parish 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.