If there’s anything that gets us Brits talking – after the weather – it’s transport.
So now the hot topic of heatwave has been and gone (or was that our ‘summer’ in mid-April?) it certainly makes sense for us to be focusing on travel in this issue.
On a serious note, it makes total sense because Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) has recently launched a Masterplan which outlines its ambition to become the UK’s most outstanding regional airport, ‘transforming the way local people travel, work and live in the Sheffield area’.
Having flown from DSA last year on a European city break, I was excited to read CEO Steve Gill’s comment that part of their vision is to become the next Aerotropolis, ‘a new form of city which links an airport to surrounding housing, retail, restaurants and businesses’.
It was the first time my holiday pal had flown from DSA and she was really impressed with the speed with which we got through all the usual checking in and boarding process and really liked the layout and overall atmosphere of the airport.
As someone who hasn’t driven for years, I was impressed with the ability to jump on a bus which took us straight to the airport from Sheffield Interchange. Stagecoach Yorkshire launched the 737 service last year, and it operates seven days a week, linking Sheffield City Centre to the airport (via Wickersley and Bramley) with a direct route for the first time.
It was widely welcomed by business leaders across the city region at the time, with Dan Fell, chief executive of Doncaster Chamber, hailing it ‘yet another landmark step in the continued growth’ of the airport, which he described as a ‘unique regional asset’.
Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber added: “Properly connecting DSA and the surrounding business parks with the rest of the region is vitally important as we grow the economy and offer better connectivity for business people and visitors.”
So it’s interesting to get an update from two chamber officials in this edition of If You Ask Me – both of them transport forum chiefs.
While acknowledging our region’s ‘excellent strategic location in the UK’ Clive Watkinson, Chair of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber Transport Forum, points out that ‘when it comes to our important trading partners across the Pennines, our transport links have actually got worse over the past 50 years’ – both road and rail.
And while welcoming strategy documents from organisations including Transport for the North, Doncaster Sheffield Airport and Highways England, Peter Kennan, Chair of Sheffield Chamber Transport Forum, wants to see less planning and talking and more doing and actual activity.
Peter says the proposal for a new railway station at DSA ‘is both welcome and seems to have an attractive return on investment’.
And for anyone like me, who doesn’t have a car, it means more options for travelling to the airport to jet off on my next break.
As someone who enjoys a 20-minute (on a bad day) commute to work by public transport, I have certainly welcomed the developments already introduced, including free wifi and charging points on some buses and trains.
Today’s employees (and employers) know that leaving the office is no boundary to progressing projects and plans and neither is travelling to get there. The world of work is no longer contained within the 9-5 and many an email is ‘pinged’ on a laptop or tablet or a meeting arranged via smartphone before and after traditional working hours on the commute using public transport to and from workplaces.
The arrival of Ofo dock-less bikes in Sheffield City Centre means we don’t even have to drive to meetings when we’re here (well, not on those summery-spring days anyway).
So for someone who relies on public transport like buses, trams and trains on a daily basis all of these visions, masterplans and strategies our If You Ask Me contributors refer to are very welcome, as am hopeful they will mean even more travel options to help me work, rest and play.
At least until driver-less cars are affordable and accessible in Arbourthorne…