€5M bid to open railway and rejuvenate Upper Don Valley

The Don Valley Railway Project have made a bid to the Mayors Challenge Fund ran by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The charity, established by the former mayor of New York, could, if the bid is successful, fund in full an innovative Ultra Light Rapid Transit train service on the line.

Funding available for successful ideas which “Foster Innovation to solve problems and improve city life” could be either  €5million or €1million (euros). Company Secretary Chris Bell said “If the bid is successful for €5million an introductory service could be developed. If €1million is secured this would “deliver a game changing contribution that will take the project to a higher level” (quote Chris Bell, Company secretary).

Don Valley Railway’s bid is based on Ultra Light Rapid Transit and is aimed at creating an innovative form of rapid transit which aims to maximise low carbon technologies. In addition to delivering the rail project the project will work with local community groups to deliver improved accessibility, renewable energy and improve the visitor economy.

In 2013, the’s Mayor’s challenge awarded funding to 5 innovative projects in American cities with Providence, Rhode Island receiving a $5 million for its cutting-edge early education initiative Providence Talks.

In 2014, the Mayors Challenge targets European projects and offers a chance to win funding for a bold new solution to a major urban challenge. Don Valley Railway aims to demonstrate that Ultra Light Rapid Transit using Flywheel technology can bring pollution free rail transport to the Upper Don Valley without the need for costly overhead electrification schemes and high performance Tram-Train vehicles.

If successful the technology used could revolutionise rail commuter transport with a low carbon low cost system.

The Sheffield bid will be submitted by Sheffield City Council. Don Valley Railway need to get approval from Sheffield City Council, who will submit the scheme on Don Valley Railways behalf. Further news will follow a selection process that takes place on 19th.January next year.


1 A précis of the bid in full:

Poor intra-urban transport links remain a significant cause of low economic growth, unemployment, social inequality, isolation, lack of social mobility, higher carbon emissions and pollution. In a few cities, such as Sheffield, tram systems have substantively contributed to improving transport links, creating corridors of growth.

However, the infrastructure for mainstream tram systems is prohibitively expensive, making it barely possible to create a business case for such transformational schemes in medium-sized cities. 

Ultra Light Rapid Transit (ULRT) remains an under-utilised technology. In combination with a number of recent developments in renewable energy generation and storage, ULRT can deliver sustainable and affordable modern tramway systems to many more cities than previously possible. 

By introducing a system on the currently freight-only Sheffield-Stocksbridge rail line, Community project, Don Valley Railway (DVR), seeks to create a platform for the development of the technology, whilst showing by way of a live project, the social and economic benefits of ULRT.

This would: 

  • Improve accessibility in the Upper Don Valley between the city and Stocksbridge
  • Support the development of major employment and housing sites along the route
  • Reduce congestion; and
  • Unlock access from the city to the North East Peak District National Park and other currently under-utilised leisure destinations 

The use of flywheel and supporting energy generation and storage technologies allows considerable cost and energy savings. Further, the flywheel may be powered by low or no carbon fuels, e.g. LPG, hydrogen or electricity via on board or external power sources.

This innovative low-cost energy-efficient traction can bring under-used or disused urban rail lines back to life without the prohibitive expense of overhead electrification and high performance vehicles. 

DVR is working with advanced technology partners in Sheffield who are at the forefront of developing renewables technology as well as local groups seeking improved socio-economic performance at a community level to deliver not just technological but social innovation. 

DVR’s Business Plan considers many service options between Stocksbridge and Central and East Sheffield including the Advance Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the large development site at Orgreave.

This plan identifies significant savings on the already low £4.3m infrastructure cost of a national rail service between Sheffield and Deepcar. Indeed ULRT may deliver a service without subsidy – unknown on local provincial railways. 

There are numerous examples of underutilised rail infrastructure across the UK that ULRT could bring back to use and it is believed that this project can be replicated in other UK and overseas locations.

2,  Don Valley Railway aims to introduce passenger services between Stocksbridge/Deepcar and central Sheffield using the currently freight-only railiway line between and  serving TATA Steelworks in Stocksbridge from Woodburn Junction in Sheffield with the future aspiration of extending this service along the route of the Woodhead Rail line from the Junction at Deepcar.

3, Further information about the feasibility can be found at http://www.donvalleyrailway.org

4, Further Enquiries can be addressed to Chris Bell (07986 759259) or chris153@btinternet.com

5, The bid is submitted via www.sheffieldcollab.net

6, Details of Bloomberg Philanthropies can be found at http://www.bloomberg.org