The busy rail line linking Manchester and Sheffield is set for a £137m upgrade next year, the government has confirmed.
Labelled ‘one of the slowest’ routes on the regional network, the Hope Valley corridor connects over 4.2 million people between two busy cities in Northern England.
But services on the Peak District line will soon be “transformed” by multi-million investment according to ministers – offering more capacity and greater connectivity.
Funding is set to go on removing bottlenecks by creating places for services to overtake slower moving freight trains – enabling more passengers to travel whilst increasing reliability of services.
Work is expected to begin in 2022 – aiming for completion in 2023.
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis – who has been campaigning for work to begin on the line – called the announcement “overdue but welcome progress”, claiming the improved service will bring a “significant boost” to the region.
David Hoggarth, strategic rail director at Transport for the North, welcomed the development, pointing out that the line had “suffered for years” with delays and unreliable services.
“[The Hope Valley line] currently has some of the slowest train speeds on the North’s rail network, meaning people often resort to travelling by car,” he stated.
“It’s great news that investment will now go into this vital commuter corridor, whilst longer term upgrades as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail are finalised.”
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “I am delighted to confirm £137 million for this scheme to remove bottlenecks on the Hope Valley line, transforming journeys between Sheffield and Manchester – two dynamic Northern Powerhouse cities.”
“We are committed to levelling up infrastructure across the North, and these important upgrades will make a huge difference to passengers, providing the punctual, reliable services they deserve, as we build back better from COVID-19.”
Army ‘on standby’ as UK prepares for more postal, rail, lecturer and nurses strikes in December
The armed forces are said to be “on standby” to help fill various roles ahead of a new raft of strikes across health, education and postal sectors this month.
Royal Mail workers, university lecturers and sixth-form college staff are committed to walking out over pay disputes on Wednesday, 30 November as various organised strikes persist across the country.
Countless employees from various industries who feel they are underappreciated and underpaid are set to join the ongoing rail strikes, as well as the thousands of nurses expected to follow suit on the picket line throughout December.
Now, as per the interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery, given the strikes’ proximity to Christmas, roping in the British military now seems likely. Dr Emma Runswick of the British Medical Association said there is there a simple way to put an end to mass industrial action: pay people fairly.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday morning, Cordery confirmed that while the army is waiting in the wings to help fill relevant NHS roles, “the reality is if the army or other armed forces step in it will very much be at the margins rather than going out and driving ambulances”.
It remains unclear whether army personnel will be needed to combat the impending labour shortage across other industries. Regardless, the Communication Workers Union are going ahead will a series of strikes in December.
Having formally called on Royal Mail employees to join the national demonstrations for strike action on the following days:
Friday, 9 December
Sunday, 11 December
Wednesday, 14 December
Thursday, 15 December
Friday, 23 December
Saturday, 24 December
As for rail workers, RMT Assistant General Secretary Eddie Dempsey shared a similar sentiment, assuring that while the train drivers and the transport sector, in general, are standing firm, negotiations with Network Rail and other operators continue this week.
In addition to RMT members across 14 rail companies striking on 13-14 and 16-17 December, as well as 3-4 and 6-7 January, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said that staff working onboard and station roles will take action against Avanti West Coast on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December.
Meanwhile, the National Education Union (NEU) which represents 77 sixth-form colleges in England are also striking over pay, stating that in real terms, teachers have suffered a pay cut of around 20% since 2010.
Furthermore, the University and College Union (UCU) already held a 48-hour strike last week and is now set to hold another 24-hour walkout among university staff. As well as organising a large rally in London, union members across at least 150 different institutions will be joining the December strikes.
Look around brand new Coronation Street set as ITV unveils Weatherfield Precinct
The Coronation Street set has had a massive expansion, with a new Weatherfield Precinct unveiled today.
The location has often been name-checked in the popular soap, but for the first time, cast members will be able to film scenes there.
The set won’t hit our screens until 13 January – but The Manc headed down for a little sneak peek.
The two-storey Weatherfield Precinct set is built around a children’s play park, with a row of shops carefully constructed by the Coronation Street set designers.
There’s everything from a charity shop to a Chinese takeaway to a dessert bar.
Above the shops sits a row of maisonettes with a balcony running in front.
There’s incredible attention to detail throughout, from the litter on the floor (which includes a packet of a fictitious crisp brand) to the fake sausage rolls in the bakery windows to the washing lines nailed to the walls.
Everything has been deliberately weathered and aged, so it looks like it’s been there for decades rather than carefully built in 2022.
The new Weatherfield Precinct set was unveiled today by members of the cast including Jack P Shepherd, Sally Dynevor, Antony Cotton, Jimmi Harkishin, Daniel Brocklebank, Channique Sterling-Brown, Elle Mulvaney, Tanisha Gorey, James Craven and Colson Smith.
It’s been added as an extension to the existing iconic set, which spans 7.7 acres near MediaCityUK.
Producer Iain MacLeod said: “Hats off to our design and construction teams who have conjured a totally convincing new precinct for our drama! They took their inspiration from Salford’s many real-world, late 20th century shopping areas and what they have created is a brilliant, characterful space to tell a diverse range of stories.
“Expect to see teens hanging out at the dessert shop, families enjoying the play area and, after dark, a rogues’ gallery, up to shady business in the ginnels. I am really excited by the arrival on screen of this much discussed but never seen corner of the Weatherfield universe.”
Head of design Rosie Mullins explained the process: “Back in 2013 Coronation Street moved into its new home at Media City. With this move came exciting potential to continue to develop and expand our Weatherfield Community onsite.
“The first expansion came in the form of Victoria Street and Weatherfield Police Station builds back in 2018.
“In February 2021 I set about the first pencil drawings for a very exciting new exterior build – Weatherfield Precinct. We have often heard about this precinct and although we have filmed over the years at a range of shopping locations, we had never established our own Weatherfield Precinct.
“It had always intrigued me – what would it look like and who would we find there? The opportunity to bring to life a colourful and grittier area of Weatherfield was so exciting!
“Weatherfield Precinct was inspired by the 1960s shopping precincts that we see across many areas of the UK. In designing this the team gathered hundreds of images with a particular focus given to those in our local Manchester and Salford area. I wanted there to be aspects of the Precinct that people from all walks of life identify with and recognise. I wanted it to reflect how communities develop but aspects of them can also feel like stepping back in time.
“In this Precinct we find an array of businesses, a playground, residential flats, a small ginnel, Weatherfield community hub and a very colourful community recycling centre.
“Working with Iain on what the writing team needs from the Precinct has meant that we have managed to pack so much into this new set! I cannot wait to see the arrival onscreen of Sweety Nuff dessert & milkshake shop, Gregory Pope Foundation Charity Shop, Rutlands bakery, Pound Outlet and Bargainanza Pawnbrokers.
“The most incredible part of this has been watching this build rise from a small car park with a mass of ugly steel, concrete and timber to the beautifully constructed, characterful 1960s 2 storey precinct that we see today.
“This build has been one of the most enjoyable builds that we have undertaken and showcases the many behind the scenes talents that the programme has to offer. I am incredibly proud of the detail, the quality of the build and for what it offers for future storytelling for the show. I am also so very proud of how it was brought to life by our in-house talented Design Team.”