Scrapping 'vital' Sheffield rail link would 'undermine' levelling up agenda, say MPs

MPs in Sheffield claim that scrapping a ‘vital’ Sheffield rail link would undermine the Government’s much-vaunted levelling up agenda.

By Robert Cumber
Thursday, 4th March 2021, 10:31 am

Sheffield would lose its direct rail link to Manchester Airport in two out of the three proposals contained in a consultation about changes to train services in the neighbouring city.

Sheffield’s Labour MPs have written a joint letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps urging him to protect the service, which they say is highly valued by Sheffield businesses.

The open letter, signed by Paul Blomfield, Clive Betts, Olivia Blake, Gill Furniss and Louise Haigh, states: “Any review of Manchester services should not be undertaken in isolation but must consider the impact on the wider northern region.

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Sheffield could lose its direct rail link to Manchester Airport under new proposals being considered

"Sheffield needs international connectivity to attract inward investment and enable business to improve productivity.

"The long-established direct rail link is a vital part of that and strongly supported by local business.

"Removing it would undermine the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda for cities in the north.”

Sheffield could lose its direct rail link to Manchester Airport under new proposals being considered

The letter claims the link is key to attracting the international students who add more than £200 million a year to Sheffield’s economy, and scrapping it would push more traffic onto already congested trans-Pennine roads.

There is just one week left until the consultation, looking at how best to improve reliability in and around Manchester, closes on March 10.

If the direct airport connection is lost, passengers from Sheffield would have to change at Manchester Piccadilly.

Under those options, the number of trains between Cleethorpes/Nottingham and Liverpool via Sheffield increase to two per hour.

A decision is due to be made this spring, with any changes set to be introduced from May 2022.

Peter Kennan, chairman of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s transport forum, has previously urged people in the city to make their views known about the different options, each of which he claimed had their ‘pluses and minuses’.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “We know the importance of direct services to Manchester Airport for passengers in Sheffield, and urge people to give their feedback on these proposals through the consultation process.

“This consultation is focused on cutting congestion, improving punctuality and reliability, and delivering a more dependable railway which benefits passengers right across the north.”