Inquiry demanded over '£1m' Sheffield bus gates

An independent inquiry has been demanded over bus gates in Sheffield city centre which it is claimed have cost businesses £1 million.

Thursday, 26th September 2019, 12:57 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 6:21 pm

The gates on Glossop Road, which were installed in 2010 to prevent trams and buses being snared in rush hour congestion, last year generated more than £100,000 in fines.

But critics, who claim the set-up is too confusing and deters motorists from visiting the area altogether, say the cost for local businesses has been even higher.

Peter Sephton, chairman off Glossop Road Baths Residents' Association, estimates that firms along that short stretch of road have lost £1 million of income due to the gates, with some 70 jobs going.

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The Glossop Road bus gate in operation during the evening rush hour

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He insists the restrictions could easily be altered to stop the street being a ‘no go area’ for drivers, with no detriment to public transport, but says the council is unwilling to listen.

Spa 1877, located on Victoria Street, just off Glossop Road, earlier this month became the latest firm to close, with owner Steve Wilkinson blaming its woes on the gates – though he has since said he has merely ‘hit the pause button’ on the business and could yet reopen under a different model.

Mr Sephton has now written to Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore demanding an independent inquiry into the damage he says has been done to the Glossop Road economy since the arrangement was changed and the position of the enforcement camera moved in 2017.

Peter Sephton

“We told the council the 2017 changes were damaging the local economy by seriously deterring local access but were ignored,” his letter states.

“Two years on and we can now see that in 200 metres of Glossop Road, nine businesses have closed, takings at others have dropped by £1,000 per week, £1m has been taken out of the local economy and 70 people have lost their jobs.

“Why does your council refuse to discuss this with people affected? Do you think this is democratic?”

Mr Sephton goes on to argue that an independent arbiter should be assigned to ‘investigate our case and your reasons for refusing to discuss alternatives that would facilitate local access’.

Councillor Bob Johnson, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for business and investment, said: “I will be considering the issues raised by Mr Sephton and will be responding to him soon, and have asked officers to look at the impact moving this bus gate enforcement camera has had.

“My officers have responded to Mr Sephton on several occasions about the bus gates at this location. This scheme has been in operation for 10 years but the location of the camera to enforce drivers abusing the restrictions was moved following the completion of the University of Sheffield campus extension scheme.

“This council wants to encourage more people into the city centre. Ensuring reliable public transport is a key part of providing a sustainable way to access the city centre.”

Mr Sephton insists he has no issue with the bus gates themselves, only the way they are enforced. He says one simple solution would be to fine only those motorists caught crossing both gates, which he says would still have the desired effect of preventing drivers from crossing the ring road.