This month Transport for the North (TfN) will release its Strategic Transport and Investment Plan – unLTD got a steer from Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director Richard Wright on the priorities he wants to see for the Sheffield City Region
Transport for the North (TfN)’s Strategic Transport and Investment Plan is very important for Sheffield and the region because it will shape a lot of our transport investment plans for several years forward.
It will also tell us how well we have done against the conflicting priorities that must constantly be lobbied about.
Combine this document with the plans for HS2 and you have the core of our future national rail connectivity.
Be under no illusion. Good transport links alone will not guarantee a successful economy. The problem is that bad links will almost guarantee a much worse one.
In a competitive world where businesses are making serious investment decisions, good connectivity – whether that be transport or digital – is a given. If we haven’t got them, we are at a disadvantage.
Sheffield Chamber of Commerce is extremely fortunate to have Peter Kennan as Chair of its Transport Forum. He is an expert in his field and since becoming Chair of our Forum has become a LEP Board member and one of our representatives on the TfN Board. He has also joined the recent national infrastructure board for the British Chambers of Commerce. Alone that does not guarantee us anything (and we shouldn’t expect too much), but it does mean that our arguments will always be heard.
For some time, the Chamber has argued (generally successfully) that if the country did invest in HS2 we needed it here in Sheffield. That argument is not won until the investment is made. There is lots of discussion about HS2 – our nightmare scenario would be that the London-Birmingham-Manchester investment goes ahead but the Eastern leg to Leeds via Sheffield does not. Amid all the noise on cost over-runs we still need to keep our voice heard. HS2 will give us a fast service to Leeds and London (north south).
Our priority for TfN remains improvements to the Hope Valley rail connections to Manchester, and improvements to the road connection via the Woodhead. In particular, the former is something we need to see in the Strategic Transport and Investment Plan, sooner rather than later. We all know how diabolical the service is now. It needs sorting.
Our final priority is the East Midlands Mainline connection for Doncaster Sheffield Airport. It is critical to the airport’s masterplan and something we support actively in Sheffield because we are confident that this will drive more flights, to more destinations, and at times that suit business.
These asks are not greedy or excessive. All the cost benefit analyses we have seen would say these are good investments with sound financial returns.
This month Sheffield Chamber is hosting a meeting between all the Northern Chambers and TfN. Let’s hope it’s good news!