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Can 'dream' of faster trains from Sheffield become reality? Public have their say on £70bn transport master plan

Transport for the North claims its 70bn master plan could deliver a 100bn economic boost to the region
Transport for the North claims its 70bn master plan could deliver a 100bn economic boost to the region
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Have your say

Rail improvements dominated discussions at a Sheffield Q&A about a £70 billion transport master plan for the north.

Consultation is underway about Transport for the North's (TfN) Strategic Transport Plan to improve connections across the region by 2050, and people got their chance to quiz the brains behind the proposals at Sheffield City Hall this week,

Sandra Haith and David Hatfield with their petition opposing the routing of high-speed trains through Bramley

Sandra Haith and David Hatfield with their petition opposing the routing of high-speed trains through Bramley

The draft plan sets out ambitions to significantly speed up rail journeys from Sheffield to Manchester and Leeds, and build a trans-Pennine road tunnel.

READ MORE: Huge boost for rail journeys between Sheffield and Manchester welcomed
But some members of the audience questioned whether the scheme as it stands could deliver TfN's target of 26 minutes by rail from Sheffield to Leeds, or Sheffield City Region's goal of half-hour journey times between Sheffield and Manchester.

Andrew Oldfield, of the Huddersfield, Penistone & Sheffield Rail Users Association, said: "It sounds grand but how much will materialise? We have this nagging feeling that Leeds and Manchester will be top of the pile and Sheffield will be trailing behind yet again."

He criticised the 'glaring omission' from the plan of the former Woodhead rail tunnel, which today carries electric cables across the Pennines, claiming this represents a more realistic option than the existing Hope Valley line of significantly speeding up journey times between Sheffield and Manchester.

Could re-opening the Woodhead tunnel be the answer to speeding up journey times between Sheffield and Manchester?

Could re-opening the Woodhead tunnel be the answer to speeding up journey times between Sheffield and Manchester?

READ MORE: What £70bn transport blueprint could mean for Sheffield
And he said last year's 'knock back' over the planned electrification of the Midland Mainline, which would have speeded up journeys from Sheffield to London, did not fill him with confidence for the future.

Sandra Haith, from Rotherham, was angry that TfN's proposals accepted the HS2 spur to Sheffield station as a 'done deal', despite having yet to be approved by Parliament.

She has collected 8,000 signatures opposing high-speed trains being routed through Bramley, and claimed public demand for a high-speed station at Meadowhall was being overlooked by the decision-makers.

Chris Morgan, of the Friends of Dore & Totley Station, branded the plans for a Sheffield spur 'rubbish' and called for Dore & Totley to be expanded to become a Sheffield south west parkway station.

Brenda Riley wants Sheffield's tram network to be extended to serve the Northern General Hospital

Brenda Riley wants Sheffield's tram network to be extended to serve the Northern General Hospital

READ MORE: Sheffield MP urges government to think again on scrapping electrifying Midland Mainline
And David Wrottesley, a former train timetable manager, said it was unclear how the 'dream' of a 26-minute journey from Sheffield to Leeds could be achieved, even with HS2

It wasn't all about trains, though.

Brenda Riley, from Walkley, called for Sheffield's tram network to be extended to serve the Northern General Hospital.

And TfN chief executive Barry White spoke about the plans being drawn up to improve trans-Pennine road connections along the route of the existing Woodhead Pass.

Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North (photo: TfN)

Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North (photo: TfN)

He said it was still being decided whether the route, or part of it, would become a dual carriageway, and how the above ground section would be maintained to ensure it remains open in extreme weather - with under-road heating not having been ruled out.

READ MORE: Sheffield Supertram renewal could cost up to £230m
"We're looking at what capacity we need for that route. What we're trying to say is given we're designing this for an area of outstanding natural beauty we want a design that works for the national park and for the journey times," he added.

The consultation runs until April 17. To find out more about the proposals and have your say, visit: https://transportforthenorth.com/stp.

The next consultation event in South Yorkshire will take place at Doncaster-Sheffield Airport on March 21, from 4pm-7pm.