Lord Blunkett (May 13) made a call for Sheffield to show ambition while his former cabinet colleague, Richard Caborn, has entered the fray over the HS2 station location.
Unfortunately, when it comes to rail, a more appropriate ‘A’ word would perhaps be either apathy, abandoned or, possibly, even abdication, but certainly not ambition, confirmed by the woeful track record of the city.
Despite the unprecedented amount of column inches that The Star has devoted to rail and HS2 in particular in 2016, Sheffield still doesn’t “get it”.
If it did, it would have applied joined-up thinking by recognising that Midland Main Line electrification offered a means of improving Sheffield to Manchester connectivity.
This equated to pressing for Sheffield – Dore & Totley track quadrupling to be incorporated as an “add-on” to the Midland Main Line project, securing economies-of-scale benefits in the process. Sheffield to Manchester connectivity is a vital component of the Northern Powerhouse, so maximum gains must be extracted for this route, something which is clearly not the case with the improvements proposed for the Hope Valley line.
Stemming from the four-track railway, a strategy emerges to liberate the Sheaf Valley embracing new stations at Heeley and Millhouses, plus the reinstatement of the main line platforms at Dore & Totley, to initially allow the launch of a Sheffield to Chesterfield local electrified service to tackle chronic Abbeydale Road and Woodseats Road traffic congestion, with further enhancements to follow.
These proposals would represent phase 1 of a package which acknowledges that the future for Sheffield to Manchester connectivity still firmly rests with the reopening of the Woodhead route.
Despite the high profile that rail has enjoyed, is it not the case that Sheffield is destined to remain on the wrong track because very few people really care, leaving the city to trail even further behind rivals Leeds and Manchester in the future?
Secretary, Huddersfield, Penistone & Sheffield Rail Users’ Association