'Outrageous' lack of railway investment in Sheffield slammed by councillors

Councillors Jack Scott (top) and Ian Auckland have both called for greater investment in transport in Sheffield and the north
Councillors Jack Scott (top) and Ian Auckland have both called for greater investment in transport in Sheffield and the north
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Greater investment has been demanded to improve Sheffield's rail links as councillors condemned the Government's 'outrageous' track record.

Labour and Lib Dem members of Sheffield Council have rounded on the Government over what they claim is an unfair deal for the city and the north as a whole when it comes to spending on transport.

They are particularly critical of the decision to scrap the long-awaited electrification of the Midland Mainline route between Sheffield and London, which would have reduced journey times between the two cities.

But they also denounced delays to the promised upgrade of the Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester.

In a motion due to go before councillors at next Wednesday's full council meeting, Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport, slams the 'outrageous' decision to cancel the electrification of the Midland Mainline.

The Labour councillor calls on the Government to reverse that decision and commit to upgrades which would make an immediate difference, helping to address the disparity in transport spending between London and the north.

His motion claims the planned rail electrification would have provided a 'big boost' to the region's economy and 'significantly' improved air quality.

It does welcome the recent confirmation that HS2 will serve Sheffield city centre, but seeks further commitments over funding for high speed connections between Sheffield and cities to the north like Leeds and Newcastle.

A separate motion by Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Auckland quotes 'disappointing' figures from the Institute For Public Policy Research (IPPR) North showing £1,940 per head will be spent improving transport in London from 2016/17 compared with just £190 in Yorkshire and the Humber.

His motion calls on transport secretary Chris Grayling to reverse the decision on electrification, approve long-awaited plans to increase capacity on the Hope Valley line, and pledge his immediate backing for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme.

Mr Grayling announced in July that the electrification of the Midland Mainline between Sheffield and Nottingham had been cancelled, with 'bi-mode' trains which can run on diesel or electricity being introduced instead.

Although he said the new trains would speed up journey times between London and Sheffield, the Government has since admitted the time-savings will not be as great as they would have been with electrification.

More than 86,000 people have signed an online petition calling for more money to be spent improving transport in the north, which was launched after rail electrification plans for routes in the north were dropped.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "The Government has already made a commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail which could help transform the north of England. We have given Transport for the North £60m to develop plans and look forward to working with them once proposals are submitted later this year."

She added that the Government was also investing billions of pounds on transport improvements across the north, including major upgrades to the cross-Pennine route connecting Manchester and Leeds and to the Manchester-Liverpool line, as well as building HS2.

Regarding the Hope Valley line, she said Network Rail had applied to the DfT to carry out work which would increase passenger services between Manchester and Sheffield and within the Peak District.

She said this was an 'independent legal process' and the DfT could not comment further.