TRAIN journeys between Sheffield and London are set to be cut to as little as one hour and 45 minutes under a £500 million project to electrify the route.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron were today due to announce the go-ahead for the project as part of a package of rail improvements.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening will later reveal full details of the rail schemes in a statement to the House of Commons.
Mr Clegg, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, said the upgrade of the Midland Main Line will attract more businesses and bring greater prosperity to Sheffield and the surrounding area.
Electrification of the tracks between South Yorkshire, Chesterfield, and the capital, to be carried out between 2014 and 2019, is the biggest of £4 billion-worth of new rail schemes approved by the Government in today’s announcement.
Some £5 billion of funding has already received the green light for projects including removing bottlenecks on the Sheffield to Manchester Railway.
Mr Clegg said: “Electrification of the Midland Main Line is a huge step forward. It’s good for the economy and will help to close the north-south divide between prosperity in different parts of Britain,
“The announcement is fantastically good news on top of all the other improvements we are able to fund, such as the £572 million we are able to give to Sheffield for transport and infrastructure through the City Deal and money for the tram-train trial between Sheffield and Rotherham.
“And as well as helping economic prosperity, extra jobs will be created from the electrification work.”
Mr Clegg said electric trains running on the route would be cleaner, quicker and give a smoother ride.
The fastest journey from Sheffield to London is currently two hours and seven minutes.
This is set to fall below two hours by the end of the year once track improvements have been completed but electric trains, which have quicker acceleration, will be able to shave a further 10 to 15 minutes off the time.
Just five years ago, journeys between the cities took at least two hours and 20 minutes.
John Mothersole, Sheffield Council chief executive, said: “This announcement makes it clear Sheffield is among the major cities in England.
“It will increase Sheffield’s competitiveness in being able to attract the biggest national and international firms because, rightly or wrongly, there is an obsession for companies about being able to get to London quickly.”
* See tomorrow’s Star for details on how the electrification will be implemented and when passengers will experience the difference.