Wednesday, July 27, 2022

News: Government's rail plan for the North "a missed opportunity"

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A thorough reassessment of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan is essential to ensure this once-in-a-generation investment in rail is not a missed opportunity to address regional imbalances, urges the Transport Committee.

When the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands (IRP) was published last November, it scaled back ambitions for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) with Rotherham and Sheffield missed off the new network. The IRP also showed that the HS2 Phase 2b Eastern leg would no longer reach Leeds and instead included a pledge to look at options on how best to take HS2 services to Leeds.

The latest report says that alternative options, which could transform stations and city centres in key Northern cities, have not been properly tested. Leaving out key elements of analysis of the wider economic impacts of the different options set out for Northern Powerhouse Rail means that value for money and economic return cannot be compared and validated.

The Committee called for a full analysis of the wider economic impacts, and a full benefit-cost ratio, for the different Northern Powerhouse Rail options. If the results demonstrate that other options offer better value and outcomes for the taxpayer, economy and the communities directly impacted, MPs say Government ‘must grasp the nettle’ and make the necessary changes.

The Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said: “We welcome the scale of the Government’s promised spending on rail. At £96 billion, the Government has billed it ‘the largest single rail investment ever made by a UK Government’. The Committee agrees it has the potential to transform rail travel for future generations.

“However, many towns and cities are already disappointed by the proposals which have been set out. The Prime Minister promised that he would, with Northern Powerhouse Rail, do for the North what he did for Londoners with Crossrail. Instead, much of the track will be an upgrade of existing line. The business case of HS2 was based on it going east to Leeds. Now, it stops in the East Midlands without any understanding of how much money is saved."

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Despite being missed off the list, Government cash had already earmarked for Rotherham mainline station and so local proponents continue to work up plans. The Parkgate area is the front runner and the project could also be tied together with a tram train station.

The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) told the Government, and this committee, that missing Rotherham off NPR network "runs contrary to the desire to "level up" communities."

Rotherham Council also submitted evidence to the committee.

Whilst welcoming the change of HS2 route (the authority was strongly opposed to the proposed M18 route for Phase 2B from the West Midlands to Leeds "which would have inflicted a significant toll on our local community, without any meaningful benefit to our borough"), Rotherham Council wants to see savings from the change ploughed into NPR and improving local rail services.

The council's response mentions capacity issues at Sheffield Midland and the knock on effects to local services, the need for a commitment to electrification beyond Sheffield to Leeds (a so-called "Northern Loop"), and a proposal for the significant expansion of the tram-train connections from Sheffield, through Rotherham, and ultimately on to Doncaster and Doncaster Airport (this would include the conversion of Rotherham Parkgate to Swinton and Doncaster local rail services.)

On a £30m mainline station, described as being of "fundamental importance to Rotherham" the council explains that it is "developing a scheme with TfN [Transport for the North, the sub-national transport body] for a combined NPR led mainline station and SYMCA led Tram Train station connected as a single interchange.

"TfN identified that a new Mainline station in Rotherham would be a relatively straightforward scheme for delivery within three to four years and we are keen that this is recognised within government. Any downgrading of the scheme following the changing status of TfN would be a direct detriment to our borough."

The SYMCA response details that the new station "will allow NPR trains between Sheffield and Leeds and Hull to stop there and will significantly enhance regional rail connectivity for Rotherham, enabling residents and businesses to capitalise on the benefits generated from NPR services."

For example, two trains per hour, NPR "shuttles," are sought between Sheffield and Leeds stopping at Rotherham mainline.

The SYMCA response adds: "The Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes NPR service could also stop at the proposed station. Furthermore, other local and regional services could potentially also call at [the] new station, providing local connectivity to sizeable towns including Wakefield, as well as intermediate stations to Sheffield and Leeds.

"A tram-train stop on the nearby branch line would link the new station to the town centre, and other local communities. To ensure that the new station can bring much needed early economic benefits to Rotherham, its accelerated delivery should form part of the Integrated Rail Plan."

Funding for the Rotherham mainline station has already been approved - £8m from the SYMCA's City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement and £10m is earmarked to support the mainline station as part of Rotherham Council’s successful £31.6m award from the Towns Fund. NPR is also expected to fund the mainline station.

New stations have been highlighted as having the potential to be in development up to 2025 with delivery between 2025 and 2030.

Images: DfT

9 comments:

Anonymous,  July 27, 2022 at 11:36 AM  

Should've scrapped the lot and upgraded the current network

Anonymous,  July 27, 2022 at 4:09 PM  

So in other words Rotherham council want this project to happen & have some funds for it, however it could be up to 2030 before it gets delivered, despite the fact it’s been talked about for many years already!
Unbelievable Jeff

Anonymous,  July 27, 2022 at 6:19 PM  

Agree above,we the public never wanted HS2 councils pushing for it weren't representative of there electorate,invest money in the network we already have including a new Rotherham mainline station.

Anonymous,  July 28, 2022 at 1:13 PM  

Rotherham MBC was, and is, against HS2.

Re-connecting Rotherham to the mainline could be the easiest fix in political history. We literally have a disused station sat empty on the frigging mainline!!

Anonymous,  July 28, 2022 at 7:27 PM  

Agree but they prefer Parkgate to Masbrough, which with all the traffic is the wrong location-bring back Masbrough !

Anonymous,  July 28, 2022 at 8:41 PM  

I actually work.on the railway, masborough station would need to be totally demolished and rebuilt,a massive job adjacent to operational railway,far easier to new build at parkgate or greasboro road,also roads are far better and can carry more traffic at parkgate or greasboro road than small roads on am housing estate at masborough.

Rod July 29, 2022 at 10:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous,  July 29, 2022 at 6:00 PM  

Get a life Rod! Anyone who has to clarify their point using capitals is a moron!

Plus the anonymous post you're picking holes into is posted by someone who has the experience to back their point, not someone basing their post on opinions.

Facts always trump opinions dear boy!

Rod July 31, 2022 at 4:07 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
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