Rail Industry Focus

06.09.19

Building a better connected South Yorkshire

Source: RTM August/September

With the newly announced Sheffield City Region Integrated Rail Plan building on the region's official Transport Strategy this summer, Dan Jarvis, mayor of Sheffield City Region, discusses his exciting plans for transforming the transport system in South Yorkshire.

Despite the uncertainties of Brexit, here in South Yorkshire we stand at the edge of a hugely significant moment for job creation, for social mobility and for economic growth.

By prioritising transport, the lifeblood of our economy, we’re on track to build stronger, better-connected places for people from all of the Sheffield City Region’s diverse communities.

In Goldthorpe in the Dearne Valley, a former pit village still recovering from the impact of deindustrialisation, we’ve announced proposals for a new railway station potentially serving both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) services.

With journey times of 15 minutes to Leeds, 12 minutes to Sheffield, 20 minutes to York and just 95 minutes to London Euston, the Barnsley Dearne Valley station could breathe life back into a part of South Yorkshire that is crying out for regeneration.

I believe social mobility can be accelerated by driving practical mobility. And these plans for Goldthorpe are just part of my newly-published Sheffield City Region Integrated Rail Plan, which demonstrates what can be achieved when politicians, authorities and the private sector work together with communities on a common aim.

This plan is the first time that local authorities and regional partners such as Transport for the North have come together to outline our collective ambition to government.

While the benefits of national investment in HS2 and NPR, should be maximised, we know there needs to be ongoing, complementary investment in the local and regional rail and road networks.

Key elements of the plan include the Barnsley Dearne Valley railway station, a new Midland Main Line station in Rotherham; an East Coast Main Line railway station at Doncaster Sheffield Airport; the extension of Sheffield City Region’s Tram-Train beyond Rotherham and Sheffield, the upgrade of the Hope Valley Line; and significant upgrades of the railway stations at both Sheffield and Chesterfield.

The most important feature of the plan is that it ties together separate projects such as HS2 and NPR into one cohesive whole, enabling people to travel within our region, across the North and nationally in a simple and more efficient way.

By working together regionally and across the North, we can drive real change. That’s why, since taking office as mayor, I’ve made it my priority to bring people together and create a transport network fit for the 21st century.

Earlier this year I published my Sheffield City Region Transport Strategy which, for the first time, sets out a collective vision for transport across South Yorkshire, aligned with pan-northern plans.

Central to the strategy are three very simple objectives.

Residents should be able to walk, cycle, drive or use public transport from their home to their nearest town centre in no more than 15 minutes.

By using public or private transport, people should be able to travel between the region’s major town and city centres of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield in no more than 30 minutes.

And journey times to at least four major cities in the north, including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Hull, will take no more than 75 minutes.

This isn’t a Transport Strategy that will sit on a shelf and gather dust. It is already bringing real, tangible, change to South Yorkshire.

As well as the transformative plans for rail, one area in which we’re already seeing change is in Active Travel – by which I mean walking, cycling and public transport. Through active travel schemes we want to improve people’s health, the environment and tackle congestion.

Congestion on our roads is growing. Research from transport analysts Inrix revealed that the average driver in the UK spent 178 hours sitting in traffic jams last year.

We’re also in the midst of a public health crisis. Obesity levels are on the rise, with the latest NHS figures telling us that 29% of adults are now classed as obese – up from 26% in 2016.

 And we’re facing a climate emergency. Our country’s levels of air pollution are a national disgrace - and contributing to nothing less than an international climate crisis.

It’s therefore important that, as mayor, I do all I can to help people to walk, cycle and run if they want to do so.

I’ve appointed Britain's most successful female Paralympian, Dame Sarah Storey, as my active travel commissioner. She has been out across the region, meeting people to understand what changes they would like to see that would help them to cycle and walk.

As a Transport for the North board member, I’m working with colleagues to create policy that will shape the north’s infrastructure now and into the future – such as ensuring every new scheme has an active travel element.

And I’ve brought Clive Betts MP on board to lead a wide-ranging review of South Yorkshire’s bus services, working with a panel of experts to look at the current state of the region’s services and making recommendations for future improvements.

Buses are one of the main topics of conversation that people raise with me as mayor. But at the same time, over the last decade there has been an 18% decrease in the number of people using buses in our region.

We need to understand what the current issues are that face South Yorkshire’s bus network and then look at how we can make the changes people need to ensure our whole transport network, including bus services, are fit for purpose.

Much has been done - but there’s much more to do, starting with securing the investment from government to make this vision a reality.

It has been well documented that, for too long, Britain’s regions and nations outside of London and the South East have not seen their fair share of infrastructure spend. Only with greater powers and responsibilities can we ensure that investment is made where we know it will make the greatest impact. I’m calling on government and the new Prime Minister to recognise the growth potential of our great towns and cities across the North and back our proposals – starting with supporting our Transforming Cities Fund bid for up to £220m of transport funding.

In the Sheffield City Region we have collectively set out our ambition, standing shoulder to shoulder with partners across the North.

We have the energy, the vision and the drive to make it happen. Now government must give us the powers and resources to get the job done.

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