Sheffield to Leeds in half and hour, Hope Valley line upgrade and latest plans for trans-Pennine road tunnel - what £70bn transport blueprint could mean for Sheffield

Rail journeys between Sheffield and Leeds could be slashed to below half-an-hour, under wide-ranging plans to improve transport connections across the north.

Wednesday, 17th January 2018, 1:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th January 2018, 2:15 pm
The 70bn transport plan aims to improve road, rail and air links across the north

Better railway links between Sheffield and Manchester, and updated plans for a tunnel to speed up road journeys across the Pennines are also included in Transport for the North's (TfN) draft Strategic Transport Plan, published yesterday.

The 98-page document sets out proposals to transform connections across the north at an estimated cost of £60-70 billion by 2050.

The latest plans to improve rail links between Sheffield and other northern cities (photo: Transport for the North)

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Its architects claim the 'revolutionary' 30-year master plan could boost the region's economy by £100bn and create 850,000 new jobs.

But critics, including former deputy prime minister John Prescott who stormed out of the launch event branding it a 'fraud', have questioned whether TfN has the clout to drive through the plans since it is reliant on securing government funding.

In Sheffield and surrounding areas, the proposals include:

* Improving the Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester, or, if significantly faster journey times are not possible using the existing line, creating a new line between Sheffield and Manchester

There are plans for a trans-Pennine road tunnel following part of the existing route of the Woodhead Pass, which is often closed in poor weather

* Cutting rail journeys between Sheffield and Leeds from 41 to 26 minutes, using new junctions to connect with the HS2 mainline

* Creating a partially tunnelled route on the line of the existing A628 Woodhead Pass, with surrounding improvements, to better link Sheffield and Manchester by road

* Significantly upgrading the railway line from Sheffield to Hull, via Doncaster

* Linking Doncaster Sheffield Airport by rail to the East Coast Mainline

The latest plans to improve rail links between Sheffield and other northern cities (photo: Transport for the North)

* Improving road links along the 'Innovations Corridor' between Sheffield and Rotherham, around the M1

TfN chairman John Cridland said: "Our plan proposes a revolutionary investment programme that will make it possible to travel to high quality jobs.

"This is an ambitious programme that will improve our roads and railways, and will also drive a sea change in skills development in the north, ensuring we meet that historic gap in investment."

The plan identifies seven 'strategic development corridors' across the north where its authors claims improvements will make it easier to transport goods and people, supporting businesses and improving access to jobs.

There are plans for a trans-Pennine road tunnel following part of the existing route of the Woodhead Pass, which is often closed in poor weather

By doing so, it claims it can help slash the huge income inequality between the north and the rest of England, which currently stands at £7,500.

Should the proposals be implemented, it is forecast that road journeys between Sheffield City Region and Greater Manchester could soar by more than 600 per cent, and rail journeys by nearly 50 per cent.

* People have been invited to have their say on the proposals during a 13-week consultation period which closes on April 17.

* A consultation event is due to take place in Sheffield on February 14, from 3pm-4pm, with the venue to be confirmed.