Businesses in Sheffield have been urged to back a £70 billion transport master plan for the north, to prevent the city missing out on much-needed investment.
Politicians and business leaders from across the north have united to produce Transport for the North’s (TfN) Strategic Transport Plan, which they claim could boost the economy by £100bn and create 850,000 jobs by 2050.
Faster and more frequent trains from Sheffield to Manchester, Leeds and other major cities; more reliable road links across the Pennines; and a new station connecting Doncaster Sheffield Airport to the rail network would be among the key benefits for Sheffield and the city region.
The plan was approved last week by TfN’s board and officially launched at the body’s inaugural conference at Cutler’s Hall in Sheffield today, but it is still dependent on central government funding.
Sheffield Property Association (S-PA), which represents landowners and developers, warned that unless businesses in the city region make their voices heard the area risks losing out.
Its chairman Martin McKervey, who was until recently a member of TfN’s board, said: “This plan to revolutionise transport across the north of England can transform our economy but only if business gets behind what is being proposed.
“Now is the time to back our mayor and back our town halls to go and ensure Sheffield and the wider region gets what we need to drive our economy forward. We must work with our colleagues in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool to make the case for the north.”
“In every business it is understandable that we focus on the urgent and what needs doing today and tomorrow. It’s hard to find the time to focus on a strategy document about transport funding will take years to be delivered.
“That said if business does not show its support now we run the risk of missing out. Investment will be prioritised elsewhere in the north of England leaving South Yorkshire behind.”
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, who was among the speakers at today’s conference, said: “This is a chance for us to build a transport network that’s fit for the 21st century.
“If we get this right, we can transform our economy for generations to come and reverse decades of underinvestment in our communities.”
He called on the Government to finance the overhaul, imploring ministers to ‘get behind us, give us the powers, give us the funding and together we will get the job done’.
Transport minister Andrew Jones conceded that a long-term lack of investment had left the north with a ‘distinctly second rate’ transport network, and he claimed it was time to change that.
“Over the next year we all need to move forward as one and agree a plan that puts decades of underinvestment behind us as we build an enduring transport legacy for the north,” he said.
He added that the Government was committed to ‘rigorous’ analysis of TfN’s plan, which he said would involve making ‘difficult decisions’.