Rail campaigners pay tribute to driving force

Peter Fox with his ticket stub from the Buddy Holly concert in Sheffield 50 years ago.
Peter Fox with his ticket stub from the Buddy Holly concert in Sheffield 50 years ago.

CAMPAIGNERS for a better train service in the Hope Valley will welcome extra services next week with a tribute to one of the driving forces, Sheffield rail expert Peter Fox, who died last February.

A folk band will play on Monday at Sheffield railway station and on a train travelling to Manchester, and residents will hand out mulled wine and mince pies as it reaches Grindleford and Hathersage.

But celebrations will be tempered by the fact that Peter Fox, a former city councillor, will not be joining the party after all his efforts for the Hope Valley Rail Users Group and as architect of the proposed new service across the Pennines.

Friend and vice-chairman of the group, James Shuttleworth, said: ‘Peter was well-known in and around Sheffield for his encyclopaedic knowledge of train timetables and his passion in trying to get improvements to the rail service.

“When everyone was saying that nothing could be done, Peter demonstrated that it could.

“Without his work we would not be waving this train off and it should be seen as a lasting tribute to him.”

The new Northern Rail service, from Monday, is the 16.45 from Manchester and a returning 18.14 service from Sheffield, filling a two-hour gap in the evening peak timetable, and making it possible for many more people to use the train to get to and from work.

Hope Valley resident Sarah Roberts said: “The Hope Valley line, which should be a huge asset to the area, has for years been a real missed opportunity. There are key periods of the day where there are no trains for two hours which massively restricts rail use. We reformed the Hope Valley Rail Users Group in 2008 to campaign for an improved service and are delighted that efforts have paid off.”

Campaigners say they are making progress after seeing their hopes derailed by clashes with freight movements. They have liaised this year with local quarry companies, freight operators and Northern Rail and Network Rail.

Stephen Briscoe, who chairs of the group, said: “Changes to the timetable on a line such as this one, which carries fast trains, stopping services and an awful lot of freight on limited infrastructure are very difficult. But our group brought together people with an excellent knowledge of the railways with some extremely tenacious campaigners, who wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

The Hope Valley Rail Users Group will continues to campaign for an hourly service, with the next focus being the morning services.

Monday’s celebration in Sheffield start at 5.45pm.