Road to city's regeneration

City professionals have been urged to help Sheffield Council make the case to Government for major investment in repairing and improving local roads.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 20th September 2007, 11:01 am
Updated Thursday, 20th September 2007, 3:07 pm

The call came from Council chief executive Sir Bob Kerslake, speaking at the inaugural annual dinner staged by Pro-Sheffield, the organisation set up to promote and speak on behalf of business, professional and financial services in the Sheffield City Region.

Sir Bob was responding to comments by one Pro-Sheffield member who said a visitor from a developing country had told him Sheffield’s roads were worse than those in most Third World states in his region.

“I know we have a big challenge here, but there is probably a better prospect now of tackling that challenge than we have ever had before,” said Sir Bob.

The City Council chief executive is pinning his hopes on persuading the Government to extend a private finance initiative-backed scheme to improve street lighting to cover highways improvements – which could amount to an investment of 500 million in city roads.

“We need to make a strong argument and it is something the professional services can back us on. We are absolutely clear it’s a priority and a huge effort has gone in to making a very strong case to the Government.

“If we don’t get it, it won’t be for want of trying,” Sir Bob added.

Earlier in the evening, Sir Bob had emphasised the need for close cooperation between the leading centres in South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire.

“Taken together, this City Region has the assets and the critical mass to move forward to make the next stage of economic change in this area. If we don’t work collaboratively, we won’t move forward. We also need to look beyond the Sheffield City Region economy and look to collaboration with Leeds and Manchester. If we want to create an economic counterweight to London and the South East, we have to think bigger. There is an opportunity and a need to go further and we will do that by collaboration.”

Quizzed about the need to improve transport links with London and Manchester, Sir Bob said part of the new franchise agreement for the Midland Mainline service to London included a reduction in journey time, which would bring it below a psychological barrier for travellers.

He revealed he was meeting Stagecoach chief executive Brian Souter in a bid to get train frequencies increased at popular travel times and joining forces with Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein to lobby for better links between the two cities.