Rail vision ‘on right tracks’

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VOLUNTEERS pressing for the reintroduction of passenger train services between Sheffield and Stocksbridge have been given a boost by a feasibility study.

Using part of the Woodhead route for non-freight traffic is practical and the cost would be lower than previously estimated, they have been told.

The Don Valley Railway group has been campaigning for years for the line to carry passengers again instead of being restricted to trains going to and from the Corus steelworks in Stocksbridge.

It can take heart from the report by consultants Ove Arup, which was paid for by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.

But although there is widespread support for a quick and convenient rail route along the Upper Don Valley into and out of the city centre as an alternative to the road, there is little sign of the dream being realised in the near future. No money has been allocated.

Even so, the report says the track is “well built and well maintained and it does not appear to require a great deal of work to return the line to passenger operation”.

It recommends the most cost-effective regular service would be a shuttle between a station close to the site of the former Victoria station, off the Wicker, to Deepcar. Two trains per hour could operate, initially with no intermediate stops, using a single train.

“Diesel-powered rolling stock is seen as the most suitable for the operation of the line. This option is also potentially the easiest to get into operation. Enhancements could be made in the future as funds allow to extend into the centre of Stocksbridge, additional stations at Oughtibridge and Wadsley Bridge and extensions towards Penistone.”

Don Valley Railway is also encouraged by the conclusion that passenger trains on the line would be much lower than previous studies have shown. Detailed costs have not been revealed.

Enthusiasts are aiming to keep the project moving without the leadership of Dave Goodison, who stood down last month as chairman and committee member because of ill health.

The former Woodhead signalman, who has worked for many years on heritage railways, has been involved from the beginning in Sheffield, seven years ago. “I’m sorry we have not got the trains running yet,” he told the group.

The latest findings will be on the table at the group’s annual meeting at the Harlequin pub in Nursery Street on Monday at 7.30pm when members will discuss how to get other organisations interested in the project and how to obtain funding.

Linking the technical research with the Government’s ambitions for the ‘Big Society’, the enthusiasts are not giving up on their aspirations. “We wish to take the project to fruition and carry on with the good work that Dave has undertaken.”