SHEFFIELD to London train services will continue to run twice an hour as part of a multi-million pound investment package for regional rail routes that has been welcomed by local transport leaders.
East Midlands Trains will operate the half-hourly services until March 2018 under a new franchise announced by Rail Minister Claire Perry and backed by £13 million of investment.
Rail passengers in the city region will also benefit from a price freeze on all ‘anytime fares’ to London until 2017, new ‘arrival’ information screens at Sheffield station and more automatic ticket machines installed across the network.
Welcoming the news, Sheffield City Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr Terry Fox, said: “Better transport links connecting Sheffield City Region to other key cities is at the top of our agenda. A fast, regular train service between Sheffield and London is important if our region is to remain competitive with other areas. This essential transport link connects Sheffield City Region businesses to the capital and encourages inward investment for a stronger local economy. We welcome this announcement.”
The move means East Midlands Trains will run the half-hourly Sheffield to London service on a permanent basis for the duration of their two and a half year franchise, without the support of local transport funding. The existing service was introduced in 2009 following a funding agreement driven by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE). It has generated over 40,000 additional passenger journeys between Sheffield and London each year.
SYPTE Interim Director General, David Young, said: “The Sheffield to London rail route provides a vital artery for Sheffield City Region, and through a successful partnership between SYPTE and East Midlands Trains we were able to introduce an extra service every hour. This important service has proved very popular and we are pleased that it will be retained at its present frequency at no local cost. We look forward to continuing to work with East Midlands Trains to bring these benefits to passengers in the coming months.”
SYPTE and local transport leaders have long pressed Government for frequency and journey time improvements to the Midland Mainline Route.
Previous investment by Network Rail in partnership with East Midlands Trains in 2013 saw the average journey time from Sheffield to London reduced by 7 minutes to 2 hours and 10 minutes, and the fastest trains to only two hours.
A report prepared for SYPTE and East Midlands Councils by consultancy firm Arup estimated that electrification of the Midland Mainline Route would generate £450 million-worth of wider economic benefits.
East Midlands Trains Customer Experience and Commercial Director, Neil Micklethwaite, added: "This is great news for customers in Sheffield. We know that fast and frequent links to the capital are a key priority and we looking forward to continuing to work successfully with the SYPTE and the wider Sheffield community in the future."