What are the project’s objectives?
The Intial Aim is to introduce a viable commuter service between Sheffield and Stocksbridge using the existing freight route in the Upper Don Valley. The aim is to open stations serving Stocksbridge, Deepcar, Oughtibridge, Wadsley Bridge (for North Sheffield / Hillsborough) and Sheffield Victoria. We have a further aim to connect with Supertram services at Nunnery Park and Ride and link into the rail network to the East via Nunnery Junction (and onward towards Meadowhall, Retford and Chesterfield) and the West via the old Woodhead route (to Penistone and eventually Manchester).
Who will benefit from Don Valley Railway?
The residents of Stocksbridge, Deepcar and the Upper Don Valley will benefit as the service will offer a quick, reliable, comfortable service to Sheffield. It will particularly help those people who live or wish to live in the upper Don Valley who do not have access to a car.
Stocksbridge Businesses will benefit as more potential customers will be able to get to central Stocksbridge more easily. Stocksbridge may not be number one tourist attraction, however not far away is some beautiful countryside – Ewden Valley, Langsett Moors, Wortley Forge, Wharncliffe Woods, Crags and Chase, and the Transpennine Trail are all made more easily accessible by Don Valley Railway.
By attracting people out of their cars the Don Valley Railway will help everyone by helping the environment, particularly those in the Upper Don Valley. It will offer a sustainable travel choice and reduce the impact of traffic and exhaust pollution and reduce the impact of greenhouse gases.
If it succeeds it will offer a model for others who wish to develop community based rail re-instatement schemes.
Who supports Don Valley Railway?
Sheffield City Council have worked with us to include Don Valley Railway in the Local Development Process including safeguarding station sites. They have contributed funding towards our Feasibility Study, and in the past donated office space to the project. Their continued support is very welcome.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive have offered significant expertise towards the development of the project and also contributed funding towards the Feasibility Study. They consult with us on transport development in the area and continue to offer significant expertise and support for the project.
Stocksbridge Town Council are keen to get the railway opened and they have given full support to the project.
Network Rail have worked with us to deliver the Feasibility Study and have assisted in researching the project.
Corus and TATA support the project and have given their in-principle support for operating services over the lines that they operate. They have helped with research for the feasibility study and operational issues.
The people of Stocksbridge and the Upper Don Valley have provided ongoing and much welcomed support. We have 100 members, 300 supporters and a petition with 2000 names – mainly local. We are currently in the process of re-engaging with our membership, so keep your ears open.
The Re-open Woodhead Group wish to open the line all the way to Manchester, and fully support our efforts which assist them in their aims.
What did the feasibility study find?
In 2010 DVR commissioned a feasibility study, with financial support from SYPTE and SCC, to assess the practicality of the project. It found that the project was feasible. It assessed the cost of infrastructure for introducing an initial non-stop half-hourly shuttle using one Diesel Multiple Unit train between Stocksbridge/Deepcar and Sheffield (Victoria) on a single track would be £4.3m. These costs cover:
- 2 Simple Station platforms
- Upgrade of track to 60mph operation for passenger services
- Minor signalling costs
A half hourly service (with a different structure to the one DVR proposed) was estimated to generate £900,000 per annum in 2006. Our study found costs of £1.4m per annum to operate our service using the National Rail Model with a franchised operation. This gives a per head subsidy less than the SYPTE average for its supported rail network, however, it will not meet a business case for development under the National Rail model. Read more about the feasibility study here.
What happens next?
To deliver the project we aim to develop a business plan towards introduction of the rail service. This will:
- Investigate alternative models to offer a viable business case e.g. heritage rail schemes, community rail, and micro-franchising;
- Seek to finance the scheme;
- Work with key partners namely, Sheffield City Council, South Yorkshire PTE, Tata/Corus (who own the track between Deepcar and Stocksbridge), Network Rail and other local developments (hopefully including BFTF).
The project will need development compatible with Network Rail’s 8 stage project management process known as GRIP (Governance for Rail Investment Projects):
- Output definition
- Option selection
- Single option development
- Detailed design
- Construction test & commission
- Scheme hand back
- Project close out
The current feasibility study takes us to a point of entry at Stage 3 of this process. The feasibility study sets out the £4.3m scheme as detailed above. However, this scenario will need to reflect the input of contributors to the project (of which we hope DFTF will be one), and development, particularly through GRIP stages 4 & 5 that will flesh out a deliverable scheme.
What about intermediate stops?
Trains are good at moving large numbers of people long distances quickly between specific points. The popular journey, and hence our main market, is forecast to be Sheffield to Stocksbridge / Deepcar.
With the line being predominately a good quality single track with no suitable passing places, a fast end-to-end service run by one train shuttling back and forth along the line serves this main market best and is the cheapest to option to build.
Crucially, with a journey time of less than 13 minutes, a half-hourly service is possible without stops. Users can remember the half-hourly clockface timetable much easier than a service of approximately every 40 or so minutes with trains running at different minutes past each hour. An hourly service may not be frequent enough to attract as many passengers.
We wish to serve other station stops along the line, however to building each intermediate station would have an extra cost. For a two platform station with an overbridge, sections of double track so trains can pass and extra rolling stock the increase in cost would challenge the financial viability of the project.
In addition, serving intermediate stops would slow the journey time and may discourage end-to-end passengers. It is our aim to develop stops at Stocksbridge, Deepcar, Oughtibridge and Wadsley Bridge, but in doing so we need to ensure that we are maximising the benefits for all our potential passengers. Also, after the initial service is introduced, the railway may become a very practical way for developers to mitigate traffic generated by their proposals and they may support infrastructure improvements on the line.
Is the railway a heritage railway with Steam Trains?
No, but we plan to use methods used by heritage operators and plan to facilitate steam and heritage operators to visit the line.
The Don Valley Railway originally aimed to develop a full heritage facility to bring a rail to the Upper Don Valley. However, it is currently only practical to market the route as a destination for mainline rail-tour operators at weekends. In 2006 a steam powered rail tour was planned on the route, however it did not go ahead because of a fault with the loco.
As part of delivering a licence to operate a 21st Century commuter service, the Don Valley Railway may use a ‘light rail order’, similar to those of heritage railways. These generally have less onerous standards of operation, but generally only allow 25mph maximum speed operation. There are exceptions to this; Wensleydale Railway has a dispensation to operate at 40mph. We will have to build a safety case to suit the service we offer, including faster running speed.
Have you aspirations to go beyond Stocksbridge / Sheffield and how does DVR foresee meeting these?
As part of our aims and objectives we aim to link into services to the East at Sheffield Nunnery and would like to reach Penistone and then re-open the old Woodhead Route towards Manchester.
Looking at these projects, opening the route between Sheffield and Stocksbridge has been costed at £4.3million in our feasibility study.
We estimate that opening the 3 miles of track to Penistone would cost something many times in excess of this. As part of this we would have to lay new track including sections of double track and install a much more complex signalling system. We would have to build a bridge to cross the A616 Stocksbridge Bypass, and re-route the Transpennine Trail. To justify the cost there may have to be services travelling beyond Penistone, possibly a semi-fast service to Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford and Leeds.
To run over Woodhead would then be on a much larger scale again. This would require reinstating the route via the tunnels and dealing with the issue of power transmission that is currently being installed in the new Woodhead Tunnel. Delivering all this would be more than our current community project can currently hope to achieve. We do support this and do so via our support for the Reopen the Woodhead Line Campaign and offer support to their cause. They very kindly reciprocate by supporting our project where they can.
Has the Business Plan looked at options for delivery?
The business plan sets out various options to develop the line:
- A ‘Northern style’ rail service between a stop at Deepcar/Stocksbridge to Sheffield Victoria with a single vehicle Shuttle stopping only at Oughtibridge has been costed.
- A similar service using the Parry People Mover Vehicle. This brought costs down greatly reducing any operating subsidy
- A service between Stocksbridge and Nunnery using a Parry People Mover with stops at Nunnery, Sheffield Victoria, Neepsend, Wadsley Bridge and Oughtibridge. This requires the construction of a double track section to enable two vehicles providing the service to pass.
- A shorter run service between Wadsley Bridge and Nunnery calling at Victoria and Neepsend
- Running both services on the line thus serving all stations without the need for a section of double track. It does require the creation of a signal block north of Wadsley Bridge
- Extending these options east of Sheffield to Woodhouse and integrating the service into the Supertram Network.
The most financially viable services were found to be the simple shuttle (option 2 above) and a cross city service following the Woodhouse to Stocksbridge line (option 6).
Various other options for development may be considered using Tram Train technology. See our draft Business Plan.