Comment - Does Mayor Jarvis have the will to deliver better public transport?

A sea change, a seismic shift, or more pertinently, a three-point turn.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:36 pm
The Freedom Riders have been doggedly campaigning for seven years.
The Freedom Riders have been doggedly campaigning for seven years.

That’s what’s happening in politics right now and it heralds a new era for public transport.

Following last week’s local elections all four political parties are around the table thrashing out how Sheffield City Council will be run.

With no overall control, several outcomes are possible, including a ‘rainbow cabinet’ comprising a leader and three Labour, Lib Dem and Green councillors each.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

David Walsh, business editor.

Whatever happens, more Lib Dem and Green councillors mean a greater focus on buses and trains.

Both parties want a return of the FreeBee bus in Sheffield city centre and the reinstatement of free train travel for pensioners across South Yorkshire.

That’s good, because the former would go some way to righting a recent wrong, as many see it, and the latter a historic one.

Sheffield is going through several upheavals at once due to the pandemic. Bus users should not be a victim of them, yet they have been left sorely inconvenienced by a traffic ban on Pinstone Street.

It was brought in to allow social distancing but has since morphed into a need to allow ‘active travel’.

If, as seems increasingly likely, the ‘semi-permanent’ closure stays, a FreeBee is the very least the authorities can do to compensate people left with a walk of up to 15 minutes from new stops, to spend money with businesses trying to make a comeback after their worst ever year.

Meanwhile, reinstating free train travel for pensioners would fix an historic injustice after a range of travel concessions were axed by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive in 2014.

The move swiftly led to a legal challenge on grounds it was discriminatory and breached the Equality Act.

And all but one was swiftly reversed in an out of court agreement. South Yorkshire Freedom Riders have been doggedly fighting to get that one – free train travel for pensioners – back ever since.

Most people agree the benefits outweigh the costs by boosting activity, health and spending in the local economy, saving the environment and reducing demand on the NHS. It just needs political will.

Perhaps with the opposition snapping at his heels and facing re-election next year, Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis will finally find it.