Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis has accused Network Rail of treating people in the region as ‘second class citizens’ after another delay to upgrade works on the Hope Valley line.
Mr Jarvis’ Integrated Rail Plan for the city region lists improvements to the Sheffield to Manchester line (pictured) as one of its key ambitions.
However, Network Rail has said construction works are now expected to start in 2022 and be complete by 2023.
Mr Jarvis has written to rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris MP to express concern about the delay and request a meeting. The Department for Transport (DfT) said the minister would meet Mr Jarvis on Tuesday.
He said: ‘I’m not prepared to sit back and watch the passengers I represent treated like second class citizens by Network Rail.
‘The Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester connects 4.2 million people, and the current service frequency and journey times are not fit for purpose. These works should have already finished, and yet still they haven’t started. This is simply not good enough.’
He added: ‘In the 21st century it should not take between 50 and 55 minutes to travel the 40 miles between Sheffield and Manchester. The planned upgrade works are vital for businesses, for communities, and for future economic growth in the North.'
In a separate letter to the chief executive of Network Rail, supported by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore, and Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese, Mr Jarvis urged Network Rail to confirm that the planned works will commence this year, as planned.
Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis
A Network Rail spokesperson said: ‘We are reviewing the original plans for the Hope Valley line and expect to put the contract out to tender in the next few weeks. The chosen contractor, once approved by the Department for Transport, should be announced by Autumn 2020.
‘These enhancements will benefit passengers and the economy of the Sheffield City Region, providing an improved service with more capacity and faster journey times between Sheffield and Manchester.’
Network Rail pointed out that the Hope Valley scheme was paused in 2016 by the Hendy review and said is being reviewed ‘to ensure it meets current railway standards before the contractor can go out to tender’.
A DfT spokesperson said: 'We are updating the business case for the Hope Valley scheme, working with Network Rail and train operators to explore how to deliver this scheme as quickly as possible, with the least disruption to passengers and freight.
'It is important that any delivery date we commit to is achievable and represents value for money.'