Business leaders demand urgent action to ease congestion on M1

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FRESH CALLS have been made for a long-term solution to congestion on one of the busiest roads between Sheffield and Rotherham as the area prepares for big business to move in.

South Yorkshire chambers of commerce are pressing for the redevelopment of junction 34 of the M1 following approvals for a new Ikea store nearby.

The branch and a new Next, both due to be built within the next two years, are expected to exacerbate existing problems with the “bottlenecking” of the Tinsley viaduct and congested roundabouts.

Traffic chaos has plagued the area, next to Meadowhall shopping centre, for a number of years and has been criticised for holding back business for Sheffield Rotherham Don Valley and land adjoining the M1, which is one of Sheffield City Region’s key priority locations for economic growth and investment.

While a number of schemes have been drawn up to help tackle the issue, including a £16m link road to run beneath the junction and a new rapid bus service, business leaders fear they do not go far enough.

Andrew Denniff, executive director of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is absolute mayhem around there sometimes.

“This is something we have been campaigning for a couple of years, but the fact that huge businesses like Ikea and Next are coming in makes it more of a pressing matter.

“There are some issues which might be being dealt with but it’s the infrastructure and design. Time is of the essence here.”

Construction of the link road and bus priority measures elsewhere in the Lower Don Valley, began earlier this year and the route is due to be open by next autumn.

Ikea has also agreed to a number of planning conditions designed to tackle congestion and encourage customers to use public transport as part of proposals for the store, due to open in 2016. A new tram train will begin operation between Sheffield and Rotherham in the same year.

“There are some issues which are being addressed, but they go nowhere near a long-term solution,” added Mr Denniff.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce also spoke of the need for further work to be carried out at the junction when it welcomed the council’s approval of Ikea last month.

“Ideally we would like to see the whole viaduct replaced with at least three lanes plus roads that keep traffic leaving and joining the M1 away from the roundabouts. It would have to be backed up with a capacity study that shows the new system can cope with the volume of traffic that means that transport is not a barrier to investment,” chief executive Richard Wright said.

Sheffield Council has now 
begun on plans to facilitate growth and investment along the M1 corridor, which will form part of a funding bid for city region cash.

Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, said: “In the short term, we have a number of schemes in the process of delivery to help ease congestion and create additional capacity.

“Both the Highways Agency and Ikea will be funding changes to the junction and surrounding infrastructure to help improve traffic flows.

“But there still remains a significant challenge in improving the infrastructure.”