Sheffield-Manchester trains: New timetable a 'missed opportunity' as direct Manchester Airport link is cut

Rail campaigners have called controversial changes to the Sheffield-Manchester route, which include scrapping the regular direct link to Manchester Airport, a ‘missed opportunity’.

By Robert Cumber
Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 8:16 pm

Transport bosses confirmed in October that Sheffield's hourly direct service to Manchester Airport was being cut, with services only running at the beginning and end of each day.

That was part of wide-ranging changes due to take effect from December 2022, which were announced following a public consultation jointly run by the Department for Transport, Transport for the North (TfN) and Network Rail, aimed at making rail services into and out of Manchester more reliable.

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Major changes are being made to rail services between Sheffield and Manchester in a new timetable beginning in December 2022

Northern and TransPennine Express have now produced indicative timetables which have been published, and the Hope Valley Railway Users Group (HVRUG) has responded to those planned timetables.

The group welcomed plans to introduce a more regularly hourly service stopping at all five stations within the Peak District National Park, rather than skipping some stations as happens at present, but said services between the two cities would start too late and finish too early.

Andrew Dyson, from the group, wrote: “The elimination of the skip-stopping will provide a more consistent service at all stations and is very much welcomed.”

But he added: “We are disappointed that the opportunity has not been taken to correct the imbalance of early morning/late evening services on the line. First arrival in Manchester (7.35am) is not early enough for many commuters and compares unfavourably with the first Sheffield arrival of 6.59am,” he wrote.

"Conversely, the last departure from Manchester at 10:28pm is much too early to accommodate many leisure activities in Manchester and compares unfavourably with the last Sheffield departure of 11.27pm (SX). The last Saturday departure from Sheffield at 10.24pm is too early.”

Mr Dyson also said services would begin too late and finish too early on Sundays, when the earliest arrivals would be at 9.05am in Sheffield and 10.34am in Manchester, and the last departures would be at 10.16pm and 10.13pm respectively.

The timetable changes do not reflect plans to increase the number of fast trains between Sheffield and Machester from two to three an hour following a £137 million upgrade to the Hope Valley line, scheduled for completion in December 2023.