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Sheffield losing out to London not acceptable, MP tells Transport Minister

Paul Blomfield MP.
Paul Blomfield MP.

A Sheffield MP has blasted Transport Ministers in the House of Commons yesterday for allowing reduced London-Sheffield rail services, to accommodate for improvements to north-south travel through London.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield accused Ministers of empty words about creating a “Northern Powerhouse”, challenging them on why they have allowed timetabling changes which mean there are now no evening peak direct services between London St Pancras and Sheffield.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Blomfield said: “The May timetable changes mean that we have no direct rail services from London to Sheffield between the peak afternoon hours of 16.47 and 18.02 where previously there were three.

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“These services have been sacrificed to improve services from Govia Thameslink for London and the South East. Does the Minister think that is acceptable? And, if not, what’s he going to do about it?”

In reply Transport Minister Jo Johnson MP said: “We recognise the challenges of integrating the £7billion Thameslink programme with the ambitious upgrade of the Midland Mainline, an over £1billion upgrade to the Midland Mainline.

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“That did require hard choices in terms of the rationalisation of services, but this situation will be resolved from 2020 onwards with the completion of the upgrade of the Midland Mainline, which will add additional capacity to the route.”

Speaking after the exchange, Mr Blomfield said: “The Minister has completely ignored Sheffield’s concerns. His so-called hard choice was to cut our services to improve those in London and the South East. The Government seems to hold the North in contempt.

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“They’ve scrapped electrification of the Midland Mainline that would have meant greener, faster services with increased capacity, and earlier this year it was revealed that transport spending in London was planned to be five times higher than Yorkshire. 

“I have written to the Chair of the Transport Select Committee to address the issue of Sheffield services as part of its inquiry into the May timetabling fiasco. We need more investment in transport in the North, not a rolling back of services. The Government’s empty words on the Northern Powerhouse agenda are yet again exposed.”