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London to Sheffield focus for Network Rail

National rail track operator Network Rail has published plans to reduce journey times between London and Sheffield as part of its East Midlands Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS).

The strategy, which opens for three month public consultation, examines possible improvements between London St Pancras International and Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield, as well services between Norwich and Liverpool, and Stansted Airport and Birmingham.

Plans would involve more seats on longer trains, with enhancement schemes at Leicester, Nottingham and Derby, including additional freight schemes.

The RUS also supports electrifying the Midland Main Line to Sheffield.

Route director for Network Rail, Dyan Crowther, said: “Demand for rail has risen significantly over recent years, and this strategy provides us with a comprehensive plan to accommodate more passengers and increase the use of rail for freight while providing a better, more reliable service.
“Unblocking bottlenecks at the key rail hubs of Leicester, Nottingham and Derby is our immediate priority, but electrifying the Midland main line will deliver greater capacity and faster journey times in the longer term.”

Demand for these lines is expected to grow by 28% in the coming decade, and by 40% between the East Midlands and Birmingham.

Despite the recent recession, passenger numbers have been relatively resilient. The RUS predicts that demand for rail over the next 10 years will increase by 28% on the main line to London, while passenger journeys are predicted to increase by 40% on routes between the East Midlands and Birmingham.

Freight is also expected to increase particularly on routes used by intermodal services.

The £5.5bn Thameslink scheme falls into this RUS area, so improvements are already underway.

Proposed improvements:

Longer trains and more seats:

  • Commuter services into London St Pancras International and Blackfriars: introduction of 12-car trains as part of the Thameslink Programme to provide a high frequency timetable
  • Long distance services: trains in the peak should be lengthened up to a maximum of 11 carriages as soon as rolling stock becomes available 
  • Leicester and Nottingham: further train lengthening on long distance and some local services to provide extra capacity

More frequent services

  • Kettering to Leicester, Derby and Sheffield
  • Peterborough to Lincoln
  • Between Nottingham and Lincoln if the Newark fly-over is built 
  • Nottingham to Norwich 
  • Direct service between Nottingham and Stoke-on-Trent 
  • Birmingham to Cambridge/ Stansted Airport

Schemes to improve freight services: 

  • Loop south of Bedford
  • Loop between Leicester and Kettering near Market Harborough
  • Enhanced infrastructure in the Burton-on-Trent area

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