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Sheffield business leaders voice key concerns for East Midlands franchise

A group of Sheffield organisations has sent a letter to the government listing 10 priorities to focus on ahead of the upcoming rail franchise bid.

The group consists of Sheffield City Region (SCR) LEP, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry, all major stakeholders in the East Midlands franchise.

The letter calls for better value fares on the Midland Main Line, which links Sheffield and London St Pancras in just over two hours.

It also voices concerns over electrification of the line and the introduction of bi-mode trains, which have been intermittent projects in the area.

Other priorities include improvement of the Liverpool-Norwich service and investment in Sheffield railway station and local services.

There was also an emphasis on the cost of rail fares, the East Midlands trains workforce, improving customer service and weekend and Bank Holiday services.

The letter also cites concern over the delay in the Hope Valley Northern Hub upgrade scheme, which the group see as essential in increasing the frequency of trains between Sheffield and Manchester.

The process ends Wednesday 11 October, and a new franchise - potentially with a new operator - will come into force in August 2019, following a tendering process.

Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of the SCR LEP commented: “Here in Sheffield City Region we are already achieving transformational change and building a thriving, super-connected and successful economy.

“Transport links are an absolutely key part of this, and therefore it is crucial that the specification for the new franchise recognises that its area extends beyond the East Midlands and into South Yorkshire, including the vibrant core city of Sheffield.

“Myself and my co-signatories are united on the importance of the East Midlands franchise to Sheffield and the wider city region.”

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, added: “Good connectivity is a prerequisite for a strong economy and this franchise plays a fundamental part in the service we need to be successful going forward.

“We should not mix this up with discussions around HS2 and HS3, which are also necessary to address the capacity issues we are already experiencing.

“We would urge every business to feed into this consultation so the government understands how we, the business community, think how important this franchise is,” Wright concluded. “We haven't got long though!"

Top Image: Lynne Cameron, PA Archive

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GB   15/10/2017 at 21:58

I would like to see the re-introduction of an EMT service from Manchester or Stockport to St Pancras to compete with the WCML franchisee which has currently has a monopoly. Such a service would restore the direct link to Derby, Leicester & etc., presently only possible with a change. If capacity at the London end is restricted, perhaps joining a Sheffield train at Derby would be practicable.

Graham Nalty   16/10/2017 at 12:07

A great idea, but would also have implications on capacity on the Hope Valley line. What I see from Derby is that Sheffield is the rail gateway to the populous towns of West Yorkshire and also to the rest of the northeast. There is the need to improve rail services from Sheffield further north and the ideal way to do this would be also to bring all the Leeds HS2 trains via Sheffield.

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