JUBILANT motorists can celebrate today - after a much-needed cash windfall of £1.2 billion was awarded to Sheffield to improve the city’s rutted roads.
Every single bumpy road and uneven footpath will be brought up to standard - and broken and rusting streetlights will be fixed.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said the scheme, set to begin next Spring, will make Sheffield’s roads “the best in the country”.
And Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg said: “When there’s not much money around, this is a substantial investment.” He admitted: “The state of the roads across the city has been a disgrace for years.”
The Government announced a ‘triple win’ of transport measures for the city.
Mr Baker also revealed Sheffield Council will receive an extra £1.4m over the next year for emergency pothole repairs.
And £150,000 will be spent on further work developing the UK’s first tram-train service between Sheffield and Meadowhall.
Passengers would be able to board a tram-train in the city centre which would trundle to Meadowhall, then swap onto railway tracks to head on to Rotherham.
The Private Finance Initiative scheme to repair the city’s roads involves £640m being borrowed to fund the work - £30m less than originally proposed - plus £560m of interest payments. All will be covered by the Government.
Sheffield Council must now choose a private contractor to carry out the project - who will also have a 25-year contract to maintain the network.
Once the initial repairs are finished, the council will pay the firm £40m a year to maintain routes to the same high standard.
But Sheffield Council officials said they will have to work with their contractor to make efficiency savings - and options include dimming street lights in the early hours, making equipment such as traffic lights last longer before replacement, and replacing trees and grit bins less frequently.
News of the road repairs cash was welcomed by motorists, hauliers’ groups and politicians.
David Price, of Price Express Haulage at Brightside, said: “We spend £100,000 a year on vehicle maintenance - and a proportion of that goes on damage caused by the roads.
“This work will make a lot of difference and, hopefully, reduce our bill.”
But Rob Prior, 42, of Broomhill, a company director and member of Sheffield’s Motorists’ Forum, warned: “We need to ensure we have value for money and that work done is good quality despite efficiency savings. Dimming the street lights in the early hours is a good idea - it will have environmental benefits too.”
Sheffield Council deputy leader Coun David Baker said: “The look and feel of the whole project is the same as originally planned. The cuts are efficiencies and any criticism would be nit-picking.”
Cabinet member for communities Coun Shaffaq Mohammed added: “We’ve lobbied to get the best possible deal. When you consider other schemes have seen up to 30 per cent funding reductions, we have fought our corner.”
Opposition Labour highways spokesman Coun Bryan Lodge said: “I am delighted the Government has agreed to go ahead with the scheme.
“After the start date was delayed we were concerned the Government would cancel it.
“I understand the money is less than originally planned but we have not yet been given the full detail about this.”