Forgotten Sheffield railway line could be revived with steam trains and commuter services
A businessman has reignited plans to revive a little-used railway line in Sheffield, with proposals for heritage steam trains as well as commuter services.
Trains would run between Stocksbridge and Sheffield city centre under the latest proposals to restore passenger services on the old Woodhead railway line.
A new heritage railway station is also planned near the A616 at South Wortley in Barnsley, off a short new spur track, enabling leisure customers to roll back the years and travel in style on old steam locomotives.
Don Valley Railway has been campaigning since 2003 to reintroduce passenger services on the line.
In 2010, a report commissioned by the group suggested a twice-hourly shuttle service between Deepcar, near Stocksbridge, and the old Sheffield Victoria station in the city centre would be the best option, with an estimated journey time of 11 minutes.
The study concluded that this would 'not require a great deal of work' and could be done for £4.3 million, but little progress has been made since then.
That was until a new South Yorkshire (Woodhead) Heritage Railway group was launched by the Stocksbridge-based property investor David Breen, who insists the potential is 'huge' and all that is needed is a 'bit of vision'.
The group has quickly gained more than 120 members since being set up last month and Mr Breen says he is working with Don Valley Railway to get the project back on track.
Mr Breen said: "The existing transport from Stocksbridge into Sheffield city centre is appalling. It takes about an hour, which I don't think is acceptable, especially when you have a perfectly usable railway line sitting there.
"The potential is huge but I don't think anyone's ever really tried to raise the money. All it takes is a bit of vision, and we're determined to make this happen.
"The 2010 study suggested it could be done for £2.6m, not including the 60 per cent optimism bias, which is pocket change in terms of transport spending.
"It makes no sense to even be talking about extending the Supertram to Stocksbridge for £200m, in these days of austerity, when this could be done for so much less."
Mr Breen said he was prepared to put some of his own money into the project and pointed to other railway schemes for which money had been raised by selling shares for as little as £1.
Severn Valley Railway raised more than £2.5m to revamp the heritage railway in Shropshire and Worcestershire, while Great Central Railway generated £8m to restore 18 miles of unbroken track between Leicester and Ruddington, near Nottingham.
The tracks between Sheffield Victoria and Stocksbridge are the last surviving section of the old Woodhead line from Sheffield to Manchester, which closed in 1981, and they are currently used by freight trains serving Liberty Speciality Steels in Stocksbridge.
Under existing proposals, the regular passenger service would initially serve just Stocksbridge and Sheffield Victoria, according to Mr Breen, but it could stop at Oughtibridge in future.
Mr Breen, who said Network Rail had seemed 'very receptive' to his initial enquiries, claimed it was 'about time' South Yorkshire had a 'decent' heritage railway.
"Parts of the Woodhead line are stunning and we need to be selling Sheffield as a beautiful place," he said.
The Star has contacted Don Valley Railway and Network Rail.