AS IT cuts through the countryside between Yorkshire and St Pancras, a seven-carriage train will carry with it the £20m fundraising hopes of a city as well as its usual 340 passengers.
Yesterday, former England and Yorkshire cricket star Michael Vaughan named the train Children’s Hospital Sheffield, and as a patron of the fund said it now had an important job to do.
Blueprints for a complete remodelling of Sheffield Children’s Hospital were unveiled at the end of 2011, and top architects entered a contest to come up with the best design.
Planning permission for the scheme was finally granted earlier this month, leaving the project with just one hurdle to leap - raising a massive £20m towards the overall £40m pricetag.
Half of the work will be NHS-funded, but the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity, which buys kit not covered by the public purse, has committed to raise the other 50 per cent.
Helping the former England cricket captain yesterday was Owen Wilkinson, 10, from Monk Bretton, Barnsley, who was treated at the hospital after a fall meant he needed emergency surgery for a severe brain bleed.
Mr Vaughan joked that East Midlands Trains, which runs services between Sheffield and the capital, should donate a “small percentage” of every fare paid by passengers on the train.
But the Strictly Come Dancing star added that simply by travelling the Midland Mainline, the train would be seen by many thousands of people - helping to raise the profile of the appeal and the hospital.
“It is important, not just for this region but for this country and it does an incredible job. We have all the experts and all the equipment and we now need £20m to make it better,” he said.
“I have sat with parents who have been sitting with their kids for the last few days of their lives, and that is very difficult, but they are grateful for the work of the hospital.
“And then you see children like Owen, who went in on a Friday in a serious condition and then walked out at the beginning of the next week. The hospital is saving young people’s lives day in, day out.”
The charity’s fundraising is being run under the Make it Better banner, and East Midlands Trains has also donated advertising space on Sheffield station to the cause.
Under the renovation scheme, some existing wards will be replaced and more single rooms will be created to give families more space and privacy at difficult times.
Other projects to be funded by the charity on top of the NHS investment include a special play tower, gardens, specialist medical equipment and artwork.
Owen’s father Mark Wilkinson, 39, said he and his wife had been grateful for the work of the medical staff and added he was now planning a fundraising coast-to-coast cycle ride next month to help the appeal.
Mr Wilkinson added: “Owen went into emergency surgery on the Friday night after falling and hitting his head, but he was out by the Tuesday. We were amazed.”
Owen said: “I fell backwards and hit my head and everybody thought I was all right. But then in the afternoon in class my writing started getting really messy and I was taken to Barnsley Hospital.
“Then I was transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital. The doctors there saved my life.”
Rebecca Staden, the Children’s Hospital Charity senior fundraiser, said the work the charity was doing with the train company was helping to make more people, further afield, aware of the hospital’s work.
She added: “This really is such an honour for the Children’s Hospital to have its very own train and we have all been very excited about today.
“Our work with East Midlands Trains has been fantastic and they have helped us with branding you can see all around Sheffield station which tells people about the appeal.
“Our children’s hospital is a very, very special place. It is one of only four of its kind in the country and children come to be treated from all over the world.
“But it is also open 24/7 on our doorstep in the city for people who live here and their children and we see around 275,000 children every single year.
“As a charity we would look to fund anything above what the NHS provides, but this is a massive, massive appeal and we need as much support as possible to raise the £20m we need.”
A spokesman for East Midlands Trains said: “The train will travel regularly on East Midlands Trains services between Sheffield, Chesterfield, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and London and will be seen by thousands of people each day.”