A directly-elected mayor could help drive forward ambitious transport plans and deliver a £500 million boost to the South Yorkshire economy, it was claimed today.
Civic and business leaders from the Sheffield City Region (SCR), covering Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham, met for a presentation on the area’s transport strategy for the next 22 years, which is currently under public consultation.
What we have seen in Greater Manchester is that if you look at their mayor, Andy Burnham, there is a very strong emphasis on transport. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that a mayor for the Sheffield City Region would want to priorities transport investment.David Budd
Former Sheffield MP Richard Caborn, councillor Ben Curran and Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis have all announced they intend to be the Labour candidate for metro mayor, with an election due to be held in May. Mick Bower is the Yorkshire Party candidate and David Allen, of the English Democrats, will also stand.
Speaking at a conference where the SCR’s Transport Strategy 2018 - 2040 was presented David Budd, the region’s assistant director for transport, said he hoped the mayor would be the voice representing the area’s transport ambitions.
“What we have seen in Greater Manchester is that if you look at their mayor, Andy Burnham, there is a very strong emphasis on transport. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that a mayor for the Sheffield City Region would want to priorities transport investment,” he said.
“We would see the mayor as being a strong person to front and take ownership of the strategy and work with the likes of Andy Burnham to then speak to the Government about the region’s ambitions.”
Under the proposed Sheffield City Region deal, a directly-elected South Yorkshire mayor would assume control of transport budgets and strategic planning and have access to £900 million over 30 years.
But the devolution agreement reached in 2015 with ex-Chancellor George Osborne was plunged into uncertainty after Doncaster and Barnsley withdrew in favour of a Yorkshire-wide deal, meaning the elected mayor would have virtually none of the promised powers or money.
The strategic transport plan doesn’t as yet include details of specific road, rail or public transport schemes but aims to grow the city region’s economy by £500 million by increasing the numbers of people able to get to key employment sites and education by public transport in 30 minutes.
It also aims to increase rail commuting between the SCR and both Greater Manchester and Leeds City Regions by several thousand journeys daily, and ensuring 90 per cent of the region’s population can reach a long-haul airport by public transport within 90 minutes.
Other aims include creating healthy, safe streets by increasing sustainable travel, delivering reduced accident rates, improving air quality, having a zero-carbon public transport network by 2040 and boosting footfall in the main retail and leisure areas by 15 per cent.
Speakers included Martin McKervey, partner at law firm CMS and board member of SCR’s Local Enterprise Partnership board member and Jonathan Spruce, interim strategy director at Transport for the North.
Mr McKervey said: “We must not be under any illusions - transport is a key enabler to growing our economy but we must also be realistic. We have much more to do in terms of developing a transport strategy which will transform our economy.
“We must continue to challenge government. Some will quite rightly say that the Government prioritise projects in the south rather than those in the north but we must get past that.”
A consultation process on the strategy will run until April 1 and Mr Budd said the SCR then hoped to have a final strategy drawn up in May - after the mayoral election.
To view the strategy or submit your comments visit www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/transport-strategy-consultation.