Bus ride through our divided Sheffield

Tale of two cities: Take the 83 bus from affluent to poor.
Tale of two cities: Take the 83 bus from affluent to poor.
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IT’S only a four-mile bus ride across town but it tells the story of two Sheffields.

From the suburban stone and greenery of Millhouses to the inner city struggle of Burngreave takes 20 minutes on the number 83 bus.

But the lives of the people who live at each end of the route are a million miles apart.

Life expectancy for a female living in Millhouses is 86 years. A short trip on the 83 bus into the city centre and that falls to 82.

Carry on to Burngreave and that expectancy falls to 77 and represents a decade of life lost to poverty, ill health, poor education and lack of hope.

A baby girl born to a family in Millhouses will live almost ten years longer than a baby girl born in Burngreave just because of the social and economic circumstances of her birth.

That, by any reckoning, does not represent a just society or a fair city.

It was that disparity between the comfort of S7 and S11 and the want of S3 that gave the Sheffield Fairness Commission its most striking illustration in an 85-page report.

The journey itself on any day of the week tells its own story.

On the way out to Millhouses from town the 83 at lunchtime is full. Women in duffle coats head to the city’s south west reading Daily Mails and Metros, middle aged men in labelled walking gear carry John Lewis and Boots carrier bags.

The bus empties and turns at Millhouses Park and the Waggon and Horses pub.

Houses tall and broad on Abbeydale Road South are left behind, Mercedes turn to Mondeos in three blocks as the bus with one passenger growls up Springfield Road past Mylnhurst Roman Catholic prep school and abundant winter lawns towards Carter Knowle. A young mother pushes her buggy along her gated drive, chatting to her two children as she goes, helping them make sense of their world.

Then we’re back on Ecclesall Road and passing the shops that tell their own story - More Posh Than Dosh, Napoleon’s Casino, art galleries, trendy delis and Sister.

A table of grey-haired foodies study menus in Nonna’s, laptops are in use in every shop and cafe window, young men and women stroll along checking their phones, lost in the never, never haze of 21st century student life.

Outside a house a young woman stands on a windy step in Ugg boots and puffa jacket, swathed in scarves searching deep in her bag for keys.

Yummy Hut, Prezzo, Mookau guide us through Ecclesall Road’s gilded wonder and past the mid-renovation flats at the junction of Hanover Way and on to Moorfoot where the new markets are taking shape.

It’s a different crowd now as we head through town.

Sweat tops, fake fur and leather fill the seats, one young man has a nipped-out cigarette butt behind his ear and above his tattoos.

Pinched faces show the cold, more heads are covered and accents move east. Carrier bags are now Lidl, B&M Bargains and Heron Foods.

Past Park Square and along the Wicker by the stunning La Perla, the Chicken Cottage takeaway, Imran’s and the derelict Halal Fried Chicken.

Up on to Spital Hill past the giant corporate hulk of the new Tesco and the now-closed Mangla restaurant, Al Saada barbers and the Bright Beginners Nursery.

On to Burngreave and Ellesmere Road shops and off the bus.

Behind the beautifully restored Vestry Hall is the Togbheer Cafe where young men stand outside, teasing, posing and shouting to each other. On Bressingham Road more men stand smoking alongside 20th century cars with their bonnets up, litter swirls round the streets in the biting wind. Right now that four miles seems a long way.

In S11 they have Starbucks, Marks and Spencer and Aga.

In S3 they have the Tiger Cafe, Saleh’s Mini market and Community Wardens.

Valuable assets though those places undoubtedly are to Burngreave, the difference in affluence is shocking, but surely no surprise?

Inequality is not new and Sheffield has some of the wealthiest suburban areas outside of London and some of the poorest.

The level of inequality in this city is more stark than in many others.

The Fairness Commission set up by Sheffield City Council wants the city to be the fairest in Britain in 10 years.

There’s a mountain of work to do in every aspect of life – in health care, housing, education and jobs – and their aims are admirable.

Life has never been fair but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to make it so.

A new generation of Sheffielders deserves that much, wherever they grow up.