Our region is blessed with having an excellent strategic location in the UK.
We have easy access to the M1, A1 and East Coast Mainline all offering the very best in north south transport connectivity.
So far, so good, but when it comes to our important trading partners across the Pennines our transport links have actually got worse over the past 50 years.
From a road perspective, both the A57 (Snake Pass) and A628 (Woodhead) are slow, single track roads which join on the other side of the Pennines at the notorious bottleneck in Tintwhistle/Mottram.
Things are even worse for rail, with a single rural link from Sheffield to Manchester being a downgrade from the excellent mainline via Penistone which was closed in the 1970s.
And all these transport routes have two things in common – they’re slow and they’re frequently shut by bad weather.
So we’re enthusiastic about the government support for a £75m study into the problem which is looking positively for the first time in decades into the possibility of upgrading the A628 and adding a tunnel. While this won’t solve our rail connectivity, it is at least a step in the right direction.
Highways England are hoping to start work in the near future on improvements to the A628 which will include upgrading the Tankersley roundabout and a bypass around Mottram. While we would have preferred a longer bypass in this area and upgrades to the notorious Stocksbridge bypass, we nevertheless welcome a significant investment on this route which will give some short-term advantages while progress is made on a major long term upgrade.
So, although there are some promising signs that the Government are taking this problem seriously, as well as some minor but welcome improvements coming shortly, we are still in a situation where the major factor holding back South Yorkshire’s economy is Transpennine links.
We need to see both the Government and Transport For The North prioritise a solution to deliver growth quicker and particularly to look at a new rail link across the Pennines.