Improvement works on a key northern rail route have been given the go-ahead as the first building blocks are laid for the Northern Powerhouse Rail project.
An order granted by transport secretary Chris Grayling will allow passing loops to be built on the Hope Valley line between Manchester and Sheffield to accommodate more frequent services.
The developments are “early building blocks” and a “key enabler” of the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, Transport for the North (TfN) said.
TfN chief executive Barry White said: “These improvements all form part of the first early building block of Northern Powerhouse Rail which aims to transform rail connectivity in the North of England though better connectivity between our major economic centres.”
Only two fast trains per hour are able to run between Manchester and Sheffield at present. The new passing loops, at Bamford and Dore will allow one more fast service every hour to run between the cities, meaning there will be one every 20 minutes.
The Bamford Loop will be 1,062m long and run next to the existing railway. Associated works, including the replacement of a footbridge, will be required.
The Dore package of works will include the extension of the Dore South curve and capacity improvements at Dore & Totley station, including the construction of a second track through the station.
“Improved rail connections to Manchester are a key Sheffield City Region priority and something we have been pressing very hard for with ministers, and something the private and public sectors have been working together to achieve for some time”, said Sheffield City Region lead member for transport Martin McKervey.
He added: “It’s good to see that the secretary of state has been listening to us, and our collaborative efforts have paid off with this important decision.”
The Northern Powerhouse Rail network crosses the Pennines, linking Liverpool with Hull, Manchester and Leeds. Upgrade work between Manchester and Leeds will cut the 50 minute journey time between the two cities to half an hour. The upgrades to the Hope Valley line were outlined in TfN’s 30-year draft Strategic Transport Plan which was published in January.
Detailed design work for the Hope Valley capacity upgrade will take place during 2018/19, before construction work starts after April 2019.