Route of Manchester and Leeds arms of HS2 scheme to be unveiled

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The final route of the Manchester and Leeds arms of the HS2 high-speed railway will be announced on Monday.

Ministers suggested in November last year that the line should serve the existing Sheffield city centre station, after proposals to run trains to the Meadowhall shopping centre were shelved.

But critics have warned this will mean homes on the new Shimmer housing estate in nearby Mexborough will be bulldozed.

Some residents found out about the HS2 plans just weeks after moving into the development of two and three-storey town houses.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the Government will ensure communities affected by the railway receive "appropriate support and are treated with fairness, compassion and respect".

Rail expert Michael Byng has estimated that HS2 will cost more than £400 million per mile making it the world's most expensive railway, according to The Sunday Times.

The newspaper reported he calculated the scheme will cost up to £104 billion, almost double the Government estimate of £55.7 billion.

A Department for Transport spokesman (DfT) said: "These claims are incorrect.

"We have not commissioned any advice from Michael Byng on the cost of HS2."

He added: "We are keeping a tough grip on costs and the project is on time and on budget at £55.7 billion."

Major contracts to build the first phase of the railway will be announced on Monday.

The £6.6 billion-work will involve constructing tunnels, embankments and viaducts between London and Birmingham, which is estimated to support 16,000 jobs.

The nine shortlisted bids include a consortium featuring troubled infrastructure giant Carillion, whose share price tanked by more than 70% last week after a profit warning and an £845 million write-off on construction contracts.

Mr Grayling said: "This is a hugely important step in the construction of Britain's new railway and underlines this Government's determination to deliver an economy that works for all.

"HS2 will deliver vital links between some of our country's biggest cities, helping to drive economic growth and productivity in the North and Midlands.

"As well as providing desperately needed new seats and better connecting our major cities, HS2 will help re-balance our economy."

Joe Rukin of the Stop HS2 campaign said: "The case for HS2 has been invented by the very cheerleaders who intend to rake in billions of taxpayers' money which is desperately needed elsewhere, so it really is time to ditch this gigantic white elephant before it is too late."

In February, Parliament granted powers to build Phase 1 of the line, which is due to open in December 2026.

"This will see trains travel at high speed between London and Birmingham before running on from Birmingham on the existing West Coast Main Line.

Preparatory work has begun and major construction projects are due to launch in 2018/19.

Mr Grayling will soon publish a Bill to deliver Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe, with services expected to begin in 2027.

Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to the East Midlands and Leeds, is due to open in 2033.

The DfT released a study claiming HS2 could help to double the number of seats available to passengers suffering from overcrowded and infrequent trains in key northern towns and cities.

By freeing up space on existing lines there could be twice as many seats on rush hour services from Manchester Piccadilly towards Stoke, Crewe and the South, and from Leeds towards Wakefield, according to the report.

HS2 may also enable new direct trains from London to destinations such as Bolton, Rochdale and Grimsby, and from Manchester to Derby, the research found.

No decisions have been made on how extra capacity on existing lines will be utilised.