Long-awaited plans to increase number of fast trains between Sheffield and Manchester move a step closer

The Hope Valley rail line.
The Hope Valley rail line.

A long-awaited plan to upgrade the railway line linking Sheffield and Manchester has moved a step closer.

The Government has today green-lighted proposals to improve the Hope Valley line, which will include increasing the number of fast trains between the two cities.

Network Rail put forward the proposals to help speed up passenger journey times between Bamford and Dore which are currently affected by slow moving freight trains.

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The news has been welcomed by the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership which has been a long-standing supporter and promoter of the improvement.

Martin McKervey, lead member for transport on the SCR Local Enterprise Partnership Board, and a member of the Transport for the North Partnership Board, said: “Improved rail connections to Manchester are a key SCR priority and something we have been pressing very hard for with ministers, and something the private and public sectors have been working together to achieve for some time.”

The planned improvements will allow passenger trains to overtake freight trains.

Currently two fast passenger trains an hour and one stopping train every two hours use the line.

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But the scheme would allow that to rise to three fast trains per hour and one stopping train each hour.

Under the Northern Hub plans a 1,000-metre loop would be built at Bamford alongside the existing line, and the Hathersage West foot crossing replaced with a footbridge.

At Dore, the Dore South Curve will be extended and the capacity of Dore and Totley Station improved including a second track through the station.

The idea was first mooted in 2013 and campaigners for better rail links raised concerns last year that the scheme may never see the light of day.

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But earlier this evening it was revealed that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had taken the decision to approve the granting of the Transport and Works Act order. The move allows Network Rail to move onto the next stage of the development.

A letter from the Department for Transport, which details Mr Grayling's decision, states that the organisation must now submit more detailed proposals to local councils on how it plans to carry out the works.

Construction work can only begin once permission has been granted by local authorities.

While it is too early for any set timetables, the Department for Transport said the development must commence within the next five years.