Letter: Who is championing the rail cause for the Upper Don Valley?

This letter sent to the Star was written by A Oldfield, Secretary, Huddersfield, Penistone & Sheffield Rail Users’ Association

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 18 June, 2019, 12:53
Woodhead line

A landmark occasion has just passed for the Upper Don Valley, though it is one to regret. This was the 60th anniversary on June 15, of the closure of Deepcar, Oughtibridge and Wadsley Bridge stations.

What would these places give now to have their stations reopened given the growing concerns over air quality and other environmental issues? The outlook appears bleak for a corridor noted for its creaking infrastructure with matters set to get worse through the 700 plus houses approved for Deepcar and Oughtibridge. Is this not a recipe for disaster with these homes set to yield an additional 2,000 cars on the roads? Is this not an unsustainable cycle?

Why can't rail investment act as the economic enabler to drive Upper Don Valley recovery and regeneration? Why is rail not part of the overall planning process to yield economic and environmental benefits? Why were the Deepcar and Oughtibridge developments sanctioned without any reference to the railway?

Does not the absence of such reinforce that this corridor should be renamed the Victim Valley, for what other South Yorkshire passage has suffered the same long-term neglect? Given this scenario, all the talk of connectivity has a hollow ring about it for the Upper Don Valley. If this applied to the animal world, would there not have been charges of cruelty brought long ago?

Woodhead was the future in 1954 with the launch of the electrified Sheffield-Manchester line, and for the former, it marked the peak of rail investment because in the 65 years since all it has received is scraps. This shows just how much ground Sheffield has to recover.

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Woodhead is, and can be with a change of mentality, oozing investment, ideas and imagination, the future, and here is an electrification proven route awaiting restoration. Why not wires for Sheffield-Manchester? Contrast this with Edinburgh-Glasgow where all five routes are electrified.

Currently when Hope means despair is the prospect for Sheffield-Manchester connectivity. Hope here refers to the Hope Valley route which is incapable of delivering the 30-minute connectivity target between the two cities, so it has been revised to 40 minutes. Hope Valley inadequacy is shown by future Sheffield-Birmingham and Sheffield-Hull journey times of 49 and 50 minutes respectively, over long distances.

Woodhead is needed to provide increased capacity on the national rail network, a system that is now operating at full capacity. Does not the exclusion of Woodhead make a mockery of improved east-west links highlighted by Transport for the North (TfN)? Are not capacity and connectivity inseparable? Northern England suffers from inadequate and insufficient infrastructure, so how can Woodhead be ignored?

Is the only hope for the Victim Valley receiving attention through rail investment by means of an application for overseas aid?

Let rail be the key to liberating this corridor to achieve parity with other trans-Pennine corridors. Is not 60 years of suffering enough?

Where is the rail vision and voice for the Upper Don Valley? Who is championing the rail cause for the Upper Don Valley?