'Rival bid could yet scupper plans for more fast trains from Sheffield to Manchester'

Sheffield could still miss out on the benefits of the long-awaited improvements, it has been warned
Sheffield could still miss out on the benefits of the long-awaited improvements, it has been warned
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The promise of extra trains between Sheffield and Manchester could yet be scuppered by plans for a new fast train bypassing the Steel City, it has been warned.

Improvements to the Hope Valley line connecting the two cities, which were finally approved this week, would pave the way for the number of fast trains between Sheffield and Manchester to increase from two to three.

Peter Kennan

Peter Kennan

Improvements to the Hope Valley line connecting the two cities, which were finally approved this week, would pave the way for the number of fast trains between Sheffield and Manchester to increase from two an hour to three.

But East Midlands Councils is pushing for a new hourly service from Leicester to Manchester, which a transport leader has warned could hijack hopes of more frequent Sheffield-Manchester services.

"Our next challenge is to ensure that the view of East Midlands Councils does not prevail," he said.

"It has asked that the third fast train is run direct from Chesterfield to Manchester via the Dore South curve, thereby by-passing Sheffield. It justified its request by looking at the reduced journey time from the East Midlands to Manchester.

"This, of course, would defeat the Northern Powerhouse agenda of improving Sheffield to Manchester transport links. On behalf of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, I will be watching that one closely.

"We need to fight this, if the Department for Transport support it, as it will be very damaging to Sheffield’s interests."

Mr Kennan added that it was important to note that the planned enhancements to the line would not necessarily speed up journey times between Sheffield and Manchester.

But he said people should 'not lose sight of' the impact doubling the capacity of the existing TransPennine Express service from three to six coaches, scheduled to happen later this year, would have.

East Midlands Councils made its case for a new service from Leicester to Manchester during last year's consultation over the future of the East Midlands rail franchise, with East Midlands Trains' existing deal set to end in August 2019.

Network Rail's newly-approved plans for the Hope Valley line would make it easier for passenger trains to pass slower freight carriages by creating a passing loop at Bamford, extending the Dore South Curve and adding a second track through Dore & Totley station.

It said it hopes to begin work next year and the improvements could take up to three years to complete.