'Sheffield needs cheaper bus fares, routes that connect suburbs and a Norton park and ride'

First off we just want to address a misunderstanding. We’re not a group of campaigning motorists. We believe the climate crisis is real, that pollution levels in the city are unacceptable, and that big changes are needed to improve lives and secure the future.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:55 pm
Ecclesall Road twelve hour bus lane proposal.

Where we disagree with the council, is the idea that 12 hour bus lanes, introduced without any other significant changes to the public transport infrastructure will make any major impact on the above. Moreover we, as business owners, many of whom who have been in business along Abbeydale and Ecclesall Road for decades, believe this specific change would be catastrophic for many of the businesses.

We are not confident, and have seen no evidence to show that, simply allowing the current number of buses a slightly quicker journey, will attract thousands of new customers, or will be the simple change needed to persuade a significant portion of current customers, who get to us by car, to catch the bus instead.

We notice that those in favour of 12 hour bus lanes often quote research from other cities and countries that show improving access to areas by bus, bike and foot, often has a positive impact on business. We do not doubt such research.

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But our point is, this plan doesn’t do that.

Creating 12 hour bus lanes without cheaper buses, park and ride schemes, and crucially, better bus routes, will simply result in half empty buses, travelling along empty bus lanes, along streets with empty shops.

Many of the examples given where big restrictions to parking have been successfully brought in, are places where the transport infrastructure is simply incomparable with that in Sheffield. Comparing European city centres, which are public transport hubs, where tens of thousands of people can get there, cheaply and easily, often on a single bus or tram to Abbeydale and Ecclesall Road, where people face the choice of a 10 minute car journey or a 40 minute, two bus journey, is just not helpful.

We’ve also been accused of just saying “no” without offering an answer to improving congestion.

Well here is our suggestion:

Restrictions to parking will no doubt be appropriate and necessary at some point in the future. But it needs to be done AFTER improvements to the bus service have been implemented and evidence shows increased footfall as a result.

We believe the city region authority must prioritise taking back control of the buses. Recent service reductions and strikes prove that the current private sector management is not fit for purpose.

Once this is done, the following changes must be implemented:

* Cheaper fares

* Circular routes that connect our vibrant suburbs and allow people to travel quickly and easily between them on a single bus. A suggested route would go through Abbeydale road, on to Ecclesall road, up to Broomhill, down to Kelham island. These are areas that are geographically close and can be driven to within 10 minutes and yet, almost all currently require travel on two buses, in and out of town, which can take anything up to an hour.

* A park and ride based up at Norton to allow customers from Chesterfield and Dronfield to park and then get to Abbeydale and Ecclesall roads easily via bus.

* Investment into better technology that offers real time information on bus times, accessible via people’s phones, so that people can better plan their journeys, spend less time stood at a cold bus stops and so find bus travel more attractive as a result.

* A congestion charge levied against HGV vehicles that travel along Abbeydale and Ecclesall roads, but do not stop on either or service any part of the community, they are purely using it as a cut through. These are heavily polluting vehicles, cause a great deal of congestion and offer nothing to the local areas.

We believe the above changes could have a significant impact on air quality and bus travel take up. So much so that perhaps further parking restrictions and 12 hour bus lanes would be unnecessary.

But even if, after the above changes, you the council decided to go ahead with restricting car travel in our areas, you would have helped us build a customer base of people who could easily and cheaply get to us by bus. Fewer businesses would close, the areas’ characters - brimming with independent businesses would be protected, and we would all feel like we had won.

This is not a battle between business and the environment. This is about proving that we can create a greener, cleaner, more accessible city without destroying businesses. And remember, businesses aren’t buildings, they are people. We are individuals who have poured our lives into creating spaces where people love to shop, eat, have their hair cut, nails done, buy books, meet and chat. They are places that form key parts of our unique communities. And if they’re lost, the loss is not just to us personally, but to our customers, and to the area but also to the city as a whole. Please, please, take our concerns seriously.

Once we’re gone we can’t come back.

Kind Regards,

Andy Grice

Local business owner and resident