Could new plans leave Doncaster out in the cold on rail?

Doncaster Railway Station.
Doncaster Railway Station.

Plans have been drawn up to transform railways in the north of England - but there are concerns they could leave Doncaster out in the cold.

Transport for the North has produced its draft Strategic Transport Plan for consultation - and it has sparked concerns that the borough could miss out on millions of pounds worth of investment in the future.

It is understood senior figures in the borough are concerned over proposals - and we share those worries.

Plans which have been drawn for developing the rail network across the north highlight a number of regional towns and cities in draft plans for a Northern Powerhouse Rail Network. Six are labelled as Northern Powerhouse Rail hub stations, and nine as significant economic centres.

Doncaster features in neither category. All the hub stations are major cities - Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle - with an extra one for Manchester Airport.

The towns labelled as other significant economic centres are Crewe, Warrington, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Barnsley, York, Darlington and Durham.

We are concerned that if the document is agreed in its current state, Doncaster could be left out of important strategic decisions in the future.

Therefore we are urging Transport for the North to think again - and acknowledge Doncaster as the signifiant economic centre and rail hub that it is.

Among seven proposed improved rail links is the existing line from Sheffield to Hull, via Doncaster. We think it is important that this line stops in the borough.

Doncaster has traditionally been one of the most important railway towns in the country. Ever since the days when our engineers turned out the greatest steam engines in the world, that important railway industry has continued. HS2 could pass through the borough, although opposition to that plan is still ongoing.

There are still significant rolling stock engineering works here such as Wabtec in Hexthorrpe, and Hitachi at Doncaster Carr. We are home to the National College for High Speed Rail, and a major base for Network Rail is due to be built at Marshgate.

The town has also now seen a major railport open near Rossington.

In addition to that, Doncaster's economy has seen major growth in recent years.

There are few towns in the north of England that have seen as much transformation.

Since the opening of Doncaster Sheffield Airport just over 10 years ago, things have taken off.

Many businesses have opened up near the site, with the number of flights increasing substantiallly since toe completion of a £56 million road linking the airport to the M18.

The area has grown as a major logistics hub. Amazon has developed several major bases here, employing hundreds. Major businesses have located to industrial sites all across the borough and just this month one of those, Omega Plc in Thorn, announced plans to create 100 jobs making kitchens as part of a 7.5 million expansion.

We also anchor many of the planned rail corridors, including the East Coast Mainline.

Our concerns are that if Doncaster is not recognised at this stage as a significant economic centre, it will be left out of plans in the future. potentially causing our economic growth to stagnate.

We dispute any implication that Doncaster is not a significant economic centre, and the figures show it bears up well against the areas which TfN include in that category.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show Doncaster's economy doubled between 1997 and 2005. Official figures show that measured by gross value added, it grew from £2.556bn to £5.148bn.

When ranked alongside the Yorkshire and Humber local authorities, this was the second highest rate of GVA growth, with Doncaster rising from 10th to 7th largest economy by GVA over the same period.

GVA per head for Doncaster rose over the same period from £8,848 to £16,889, but from a low base. Overall Doncaster rose from 20th (of 21) to 18th when ranked alongside other authorities, however this was the highest rate of GVA growth per head in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Barnsley has a lower GVA per head, £14,619, and a lower total GVA, at £3.499bn but is listed as an 'other significant economic centre', despite having a smaller economy than Doncaster. Similary Huddersefield is rated as a significant economic centre - but Kirklees, where Huddersfield is the main town, has a GVA per head of £16,594, again, lower than Doncaster.

Doncaster's total GVA is also higher than that of Hull, rated at £5.128 bn in 2015.

We urge all those who share our concerns to contact Northern Powerhouse rail and register their concerns.

You can email transportconsultation@ipsosmori.com , or write to TfN Draft Transport Plan Consultation, IPSOS Mori North, FreepostAdmail 4275, Manchester, M60 1HE.