Hope for further improvement to Chesterfield rail services
Train passengers have been given renewed hope of further improvement to rail services from Chesterfield after investment of more than £400 million was pledged for Britain’s railways.
More than £315m is to be invested in upgrading a key east-west route across the north of England, as well as £70m towards improving freight capacity between Southampton and the Midlands and £15m towards new stations – but the Department for Transport also confirmed it is once again considering electrifying the Midland Main Line between London and Sheffield, via Chesterfield.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Modernising and upgrading our vital transport links is critical to levelling up every part of this country, unleashing our economy and spreading opportunity as we build back better.”
The investment announcement coincides with completion of the first phase of the £1.5 billion MML upgrade, introducing new electric trains on services at the southern end of the line.
The route was electrified from London St Pancras to Bedford in the late 1970s, with plans to extend to Corby by 2017 and to Chesterfield and Sheffield to 2020.
However, while the Corby section was finally completed in January – with electric train services beginning this month – the proposal to electrify the rest of the route was cancelled in 2017, in favour of new ‘bi-mode’ trains which can run on electricity and diesel.
Early stage of development
But the Government has now pledged to extend electrification to Market Harborough – and confirmed “further electrification of the Midland Main Line to Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield is currently being examined by the Department and Network Rail, and is at an early stage of development”.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “This work will be subject to the development of a satisfactory business case.”
And the DfT said Chesterfield passengers were already benefiting from the MML upgrade, with peak-time journey improvements of up to 30 minutes – the fastest off-peak journey taking just more than an hour and 45 minutes – a consistent departure time throughout the day and earlier and later services.
Andrew Stephenson, transport minister, said: “Only by investing in, modernising and expanding our railways, can we provide passengers with the reliable and resilient services they expect, and create a transport network fit for the future.”Chris Heaton-Harris, rail minister, said: “We’re building a brighter future for the railways.”