AFTER its residents, what would you consider to be the finest asset in the long neglected Upper Don Valley? Could it possibly be the long abandoned railway, the former electrified Woodhead route, that was once the future – and still is – if given the chance?
Northern England is not blessed with an abundance of priceless transport infrastructure, so why was Woodhead absent from the Transport for the North (TfN) consultation? How can significant Hope Valley Line improvements be deemed superior to Woodhead in the delivery of the 30 minutes Sheffield-Manchester connectivity target?
Worse still, if the former were to be found incapable of realising this goal, who realistically believes that a new line would be built? If this scenario were to arise then it is not hard to visualise that the Hope Valley failing to meet the connectivity target would prompt the setting of a revised target that matched the capability of the route. Another case of second best for Sheffield.
What other corridor linking two major cities has been ignored like the Upper Don Valley has? The existing rail network is currently operating at full capacity so why can’t Woodhead be reopened?
Let rail investment be the economic enabler for the regeneration of the Upper Don Valley. It would liberate and transform this corridor which demands transport infrastructure investment to avoid gridlock with new stations at Deepcar, Oughtibridge, Stocksbridge and Wadsley Bridge in response to housing developments in excess of 700 homes in the two former communities, and more to come.
Manchester Road, Stocksbridge, does offer a clue. They should enjoy public transport links with that Manchester, making it reachable in less than an hour, offering employment opportunities.
A triple dividend would ensue from reopening Woodhead through providing vital extra network capacity, the economic revival of the Upper Don Valley and also the creation of a range of travel opportunities as rail passenger numbers rise.
Is this not a matter for the newly-elected Sheffield City Region Mayor? Is not the deafening silence on the Upper Don Valley and Woodhead disturbing? How can a key asset such as Woodhead be seemingly abandoned by TfN? Where is the vision for the Upper Don Valley to replace its current vacuum?