Sheffield transport workers ready for Tour de France visitors

SYPTE call centre prepares for the Tour De France
SYPTE call centre prepares for the Tour De France
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It may be peaceful now, but a Sheffield transport hub is one of many services gearing up to be pushed to the limit.

It may look peaceful now, but this transport hub is one of many services gearing up to be pushed to the limit.

The contact centre for South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive deals with a thousands or so calls from passengers on a normal day.

Howwver, in July that will rise to 40,000 in one weekend.

An extra 33 staff, every tram available and bus services are being laid on to cope with the thousands of visitors expected when the Tour de France arrives in the county on Sunday, July 6.

And there also will be widespread disruption to cope with as 35 bus services, particularly in the north of Sheffield, are cut off by the road closures for the famous cycle race.

David Young, transport executive interim director general, who is also working on the day, says: “It will be all hands on deck.

“Normally on a Sunday we might have three or four people in the contact centre, but for the Tour de France it will be about 15. It will be open for longer hours as well.

“This will be one of the most challenging events we have ever had, apart from days when it snows and all the roads are affected.

“The plans are all in place now, it is about putting them in action and making sure the frontline staff are ready to give people all the information they need.

“It will be very fast paced – but that’s why they do what they do.”

Staff at the centre deal with queries coming in by phone, as well as updating the website and sharing information via Twitter, @travelsyorks.

They can check live information on buses through the Your Next Bus service and speak to 14 bus operators countywide to discover what is going on – whether it be road closures because of a fire or flooded streets.

Staff member Kerry Wiggington, of Sheffield, said: “We get things like lost kippers, lost shopping on buses.

“A lot of people ring us to find out how to get from A to B and for job interviews, things like that.

“People think you can see where the buses are, which we can’t, but you do know pretty much every bus service after you have worked here a while.

“I’m definitely working the Tour de France and looking forward to the challenge.”

Passengers are advised to check the Travel South Yorkshire website at to check if their bus is affected.

It will also be updated throughout the weekend and Traveline is available on 01709 51 51 51.

The opening stages of the Tour de France, the world’s largest annual sporting event, are in England this year.

Known as the Grand Départ, stage one, on Saturday, July 5, will see riders head from Leeds to Harrogate, with stage two, the following day, from York to Sheffield.

Stage three, the following day, sees riders head from Cambridge to London, before crossing the channel to France.

Four hundred police officers will line the route of the Tour de France when it arrives in Sheffield.

A dedicated team from South Yorkshire Police has been working to plan the event for several months.

Temporary chief inspector Simon Wanless, who has written a column for The Star about the policing of the city’s Grand Départ, said the thousands of visitors created a ‘significant issue’ for organisations.

He says: “A dedicated police team has been working to ensure the rest of the county can still operate as normal and working with partners to put contingency plans in place so we can still provide the same level of service to the people of South Yorkshire.

“There will be about 400 officers along the cycle route, on hand to deal with any issues that you may expect to arise with extremely large groups of people.”

Police staff will include coinstables, community support officers and nearly 100 special constables who will be giving up their spare time to respond. Special constables from Humberside Police are also being brought in to help.

All staff leave was cancelled back in January so staff were available – and Mr Wanless says the only cost was officer time and lieu days.

He urged people not to ‘underestimate’ how busy the day would be, and take precautions so they would not be victims of crime. Locking vehicles, taking valuable items with you and leaving bikes in cycle parks only is advised.

He says: “It’s important to remember why police are attending – we are there to provide visibility and reassurance, to deal with any issues that arise and to prevent and detect crime.

“We are not there for crowd control or traffic management. This will be dealt with by the 4,000 stewards and 3,500 volunteers drafted in by the Tour team to work for the local authority to ensure the race runs smoothly.”

To read Mr Wanless’ column, click here

“There are going to be queues – that’s the reality,” admits Darren Pearce, manager of Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre manager.

The retail centre is to welcome one of its biggest crowds – after Christmas lights switch ons, sales events and concerts – when the Tour de France visits on Sunday, July 6.

For not only is it the site of Stage Two’s largest spectator hub, with about 20,000 people expected at the site’s fan festival, it is also staying open as a shopping centre.

In total there are expected to be between 50 and 100,000 people at the site, between the steep Jenkin Road climb in Wincobank – and the finish at Motorpoint Arena in Attercliffe – throughout the day.

Mr Pearce says he hopes the day will create a ‘buzz’, attract shoppers to Meadowhall and eventually more investment for the city as a legacy to the Tour,

The keen cyclist, who rides to work from home in Millhouses, says: “We have a massive site here, there’s a huge area for the spectator hub, a travel centre and all the facilities you need for such an event.

“This is a real positive for the city and a massive opportunity if we showcase it in the right way.

“Around Christmas we might have 150,000 people down on one day, so we are used to coping with massive numbers like this – it is what we do.

“I think it is certainly one of the biggest events that we have ever dealt with.”

Some food outlets small enough to escape Sunday trading hours restrictions will stay open until 9pm to feed hungry revellers.

An extra 98 mobile toilets and staff are also being laid on, while a tram will run from the city centre every four minutes.

All leave has been cancelled for workers directly employed by Meadowhall and a new ‘wayfinding’ station is being set up to direct people.

A special mall guide handout is also being produced.

Drivers will be able to access the centre by road until 1pm, although they will be able to leave throughout, as the carriageway that brings people in is closed off.

Mr Pearce says: “The last thing we want to do is put off our core shoppers so we are advising them about what is happening and they can avoid it if they want.

“You can still come, but do it on the Saturday when you won’t get caught up in it or early on the Sunday.”