Removal of Sheffield to Manchester Airport link would threaten businesses and international student numbers, MP says

Grant Shapps has said a meeting of his northern transport taskforce will meet after the local elections amid threats to remove a direct rail link from Manchester Airport to Sheffield.

Paul Blomfield MP at the railway at Heeley. Photo:Scott Merrylees

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield raised the issue with the Transport Secretary in the Commons today, as he said a consultation was considering removing the service.

“Our Chamber of Commerce is deeply concerned about the damage to local business and jobs,” he said.

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And he added: “Our two world class universities believe it will threaten international student recruitment which brings in more than £200m to the local economy.”

Mr Shapps said he was aware of the concerns and that there was “a problem with congestion” around Manchester.

He said: “I’ve actually set up a Northern Transport Acceleration Council meeting - a special meeting of NTAC - for after the elections in order to work with the Manchester Recovery Taskforce to resolve exactly this issue.”

Sheffield Labour MPs Mr Blomfield, Clive Betts, Olivia Blake, Gill Furniss and Louise Haigh all previously wrote to Mr Shapps over the consultation, which gave three different options for how the rail network in and around Manchester can be reconfigured from May 2022 to improve overall reliability.

Before the pandemic, during which passenger numbers have plummeted, congestion around Manchester was having a major knock-on impact on the rest of the North and Yorkshire.

In two of the scenarios, the Cleethorpes/Nottingham service via Sheffield to Liverpool is increased to a standard two trains per hour, meaning there is no longer a through service from Sheffield to Manchester Airport.

The Sheffield MPs argued that “any review of Manchester services should not be undertaken in isolation but must consider the impact on the wider northern region.”

And their letter says “the loss of a direct rail connection will drive more road traffic onto already congested trans-Pennine routes.”

They said: "The long-established direct rail link is a vital part of that and strongly supported by local business. Removing it would undermine the Government’s 'levelling-up' agenda for cities in the North."

But earlier this month Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the rail industry had put forward “non-workable options” aimed at relieving pressure on the network.