City leaders lobby government on rail needs

7th November 2016

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has joined forces with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Sheffield City Council to make the case to the government on measures needed to boost the city region's rail services.

The Chamber, the LEP and the Council wrote to Andrew McDonald, Franchise Bid Director for the Department for Transport, which outlined the city region's priorities for train services from Sheffield to London ahead of a decision being made on the new East Midlands franchise holder for 2019. Peter Kennan, Chair of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Transport Forum and a Partner at Hawsons Chartered Accountants said: -This issue is of critical importance to business and leisure travellers to and from Sheffield and so the Chamber, LEP and Council came together to offer input representing the united view of the public and private sector. -We know the Department for Transport (DfT) is currently framing the new train procurement document and specifying the Invitation to Tender for the new East Midlands franchise which is up for renewal in the very near future and wanted to ensure the Sheffield city region's voice was heard. -Sheffield is the fourth largest city in England but has not enjoyed a train service to London befitting its size. Other Northern cities currently, or will soon, enjoy a 20-minute interval service to London and we believe that this level of service can and should now be provided to Sheffield by specification in the new East Midlands franchise. The Chamber is supportive of East Midlands Trains' 'Railway for Growth' strategy which includes main features like six trains an hour from London St Pancras to Corby, Derby, Nottingham or Sheffield with increased capacity, infrastructure enhancements leading to a Sheffield to London journey time of one hour 50 minutes, and new Inter-City-style high speed trains. Peter explained: -Our executive summary of priorities also includes the need to specify three trains per hour from London to Sheffield with one train heading on beyond Sheffield to Leeds and one to Manchester/Liverpool. This would put us in line with other northern cities and would help Transport for the North fulfil their Northern Powerhouse vision for an improved service connecting Sheffield with Leeds and Manchester. -The fast train service from Sheffield to Leeds is currently one train per hour but this service is totally unsuited to dealing with this sort of relatively short distance passenger flows and so is often operating well beyond acceptable passenger loadings. The Northern Rail franchise recently awarded specifies a second fast train per hour from Sheffield to Leeds from 2019 but this level of service provision is still well below what one would expect as an acceptable and necessary service between two major cities. -We'd like to see Sheffield enjoy three fast trains per hour from Sheffield to Leeds enabling part of the vision of Transport for the North for improved rail connectivity to be realised. -In our letter we also outlined the need for the DfT to specify a sufficient number of Inter-City Express trains to fulfil the service requirements proposed, and we expressed our hope that the new train fleet will be built in Britain rather than abroad.

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