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Rural train services – and how HS3 won’t help everyone

There’s been a lot in the news about HS2 and HS3 recently. HS2 will get us to London from Manchester in about an hour when it’s up and running, while HS3 will – if it does happen – will mean Manchester to Leeds in under 30 minutes. 
 
But spare a thought for communities and businesses based in more rural areas, areas which stand to gain precisely nothing from either of the aforementioned rail projects. Take the example of FSB member Helen Molyneux, who runs business continuity consultancy, Cambridge Risk Solutions, in New Mills.
 
She moved to Chinley almost four years ago from the south, believing it a good choice as it was on the Manchester to Sheffield ‘Hope Valley’ Line. Little did she know that services were sporadic at best, trains running just about hourly between the two cities at peak times, less off-peak. The station doesn’t have a ticket office, which adds to the problems of pre-purchasing tickets.
 
“Now that we do live here, and have the timetable, we use the train an awful lot less than we would like to!” she said. “If we are travelling to, for example, Leeds and London, the problems caused by missed connections mean that train is rarely our first option.  A missed connections usually means a two hour wait for the next train.”
 
She continued: “I am fully aware we live in the countryside, and would not expect express trains to be dashing through the beautiful Peaks, but something a little more frequent and comfortable would be nice. I understand we are soon to get a ticket machine.  However, this will be for purchase of bought-on-the-day tickets, and not for pre-booked tickets. Currently, we have to drive to Whaley Bridge or either of the New Mills stations, mornings only, or further afield.
 
“All businesses in the area struggle. We know one family who have just moved due to their inability to get into Manchester when called-out.  More houses are being built in the village, which can only exacerbate the problem.”
 
So, will HS3 alleviate the problem? Probably not, is the answer. The route across the Pennines is unlikely to have any stops between Manchester and Leeds, and Sheffield. Trains need to build up speed, and stops get in the way. Unless the frequency of trains to Manchester are increased on the Hope Valley line, road – like for many in more rural areas of the country – is the only form of reliable transport.
 
Adds Helen: “We have significant parts of the days with trains once every two hours, we have ancient stock that we were promised would be gone by now, we have Pacer trains that disturb people living near the line as they make significant noise when they are stationary and pulling away from the station, and we have an inability to purchase or collect tickets.
 
“I am not sure how the HS3 proposals will change much on the Hope Valley line, although I am confident it won’t be much. But my own opinion is that the area covered by the HS3 proposals has been lacking in sufficient investment for a long period of time, and should therefore take some form of priority.”