Wednesday, November 16, 2022

News: Rotherham mainline remains amongst South Yorkshire's rail investment priorities


The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) has reiterated its rail investment priorities so that it can continue to make the case for the important rail improvements that the region needs.

It includes a potential new station on the mainline in Rotherham.

The MCA has agreed its priorities following the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and the North (IRP) which was published by the Government 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 Government, through recent iterations, has given various commitments, and trackbacks, around NPR.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement, Oliver Coppard, mayor of South Yorkshire, said: "The Government has announced Northern Powerhouse Rail 61 times now and we need to break out of this cycle of announcement, delay, and then cancellation of schemes which does nobody any good across the North and should not be allowed to continue.

"I can't say that I'm optimistic about the announcements that I'm going to see on Thursday but I hope that it does contain commitments to capital projects, particularly those related to public transport and trains in particular.

"The picture when it comes to rail transport across the North has been woeful recently, if not before, and it does need to change. This sort of long term ambition for our region is exactly the right place to be."

SYMCA's priorities are based around:

- Getting current commitments delivered (eg. the electrification of the Midland Mainline to Sheffield by 2030)
- Improving South Yorkshire’s strategic connections (eg. improving the links to Leeds and Manchester)
- Supporting the role of rail in accessing South Yorkshire’s planned growth hubs (eg. new stations)

Rotherham mainline comes under strategic connections and links to SYMCA's priority of improving the Sheffield to Leeds route with the "further electrification and infrastructure enhancements to improve connectivity on the key north-south route via the Dearne Valley, including extending electrification to South Kirby Junction (ECML) and unlocking new station proposals for Rotherham Mainline and Dearne Valley Parkway."

SYMCA and Rotherham Council have been developing a scheme to return mainline train services to the borough for the first time since the 1980s. A site at Parkgate is the frontrunner for a regeneration project described by experts as "a relatively straightforward scheme for delivery within three to four years."

£10m in funding has been secured for land assembly and a lead consultant has been procured to produce a masterplan study for the station area but delivery has not been helped by a Government decision to not allow SYMCA to use the full £8m requested from its City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) for the project. Instead, the SYMCA is being allowed to only spend up to £1m from the pot between now and 2027 to "develop the Outline Business Case (OBC) for an integrated mainline and tram-train station"

Regarding the funding, Andrew Moss, Interim Head of Transport Infrastructure at Rotherham Council, said: "Developing a transport scheme is both akin to a snail race and the rabbit and tortoise fable, you never know who is going to be the winner until the end. A business case for a rail station can take 5 - 10 years, I'm not suggesting that Rotherham Mainline will take that long but we've backing that proposal as an authority for some years now.

"We've been awarded some funding for the business case from the CRSTS programme so that's got programme entry status with government. Government has accepted that this scheme is one that it sees the benefit of seeing it completed, but nobody knows until we've done the site investigations, the ground surveys, the scheme designs, the land assembly, and all the other project features that go along with building railway stations - we've got to work with Network Rail and plan service patterns and energy supply for the tram system. There's a lot of engineering challenges within such a scheme. Sometimes we can get part way down that road, or track, and find that there is an unsurmountable blockage and we have to stop the scheme. It's certainly not the case that we are anywhere near that point.

"Government has definitely supported us and granted us funding. The only thing that has changed is that our desire as an authority was very ambitious - we wanted a sum of money to do the business case and deliver the scheme in short order because we'd like it as soon as possible. Government has said that: "we think it could take longer to evaluate all those things so you can have some of the money - about a million pounds - develop the business case, come back to us, let's talk and let's see how we can go." We are still optimistic that we will have a sound business case in about a year's time and the follow-on funding will be granted."

Also included in South Yorkshire's rail investment priorities is a new station at Waverley in Rotherham.

Work has been underway for a number of years through the Restoring Your Railway "Ideas Fund" for a new railway station on the Sheffield to Lincoln line at Waverley serving the new community and the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP). A £1m contribution from the CRSTS has been allocated for business case development work up to 2026.

Images: Transport for the North


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