“Sheffield City Region shows its true mettle as a bright, new future is forged”

Published 29th June 2017 at 8:31am

In a new blog post John Cridland, Chair, Transport for the North writes about his recent visit to Sheffield City Region and Transport for the North’s plans to help connect up the great city regions of the North of England.

Think Sheffield, and you may automatically think ‘Sheffield Steel’ – a strong brand synonymous with craftsmanship, quality, innovation and pride. But like so many of the vast industrial metropolises of the north in recent times Sheffield has experienced some extremely challenging times, socially and economically.

Fast forward a few decades and we find ourselves in a region transformed, re-invigorated and one experiencing a renaissance in today’s industrial arena; new ideas, new technologies, new opportunities, yes, but forged on the drive, imagination and determination to succeed that established the city centuries ago.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to accept an invitation from the Sheffield City Region (SCR) LEP to join them on a whistle-stop tour of the area, experience some of the key developments and discuss our shared view of the Sheffield City Region transport landscape of the future.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport looks set to becoming a major commercial portal for global markets, from the east side of the country.

I met up with members of the airport’s management team together with leaders of the SCR LEP to hear about their plans for the future. The airport itself is one of the newest purpose built international airports in the UK and has one of the longest runways as well.  The airport is part of a 1,600 acre site known as Aero Centre Yorkshire and has the capacity to handle up to 25 million passengers and 250,000 tonnes of cargo per year.

As I strolled around the complex itself, vibrant, modern and fit for purpose, one of the team explained that around 1,000 people are employed in the organization, and the airport currently delivers £40m gross value added per year. The numbers are impressive and look to continue to grow, so we need to ensure that connectivity is smooth and efficient. Therefore the re-development of junction 3, M18 and the potential to join up with the east coast line to the airport is going to be one of the major contributing factors, and one that we’re all behind – 100%!

As I looked around the area I was reminded of a quote I’d once read attributed to Sheffield – a city of makers, and it’s this ability to explore new ideas and developments that has led to their current success. The cutting edge of technology has no greater advocate than the hi-tec commercial hub AMID, the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.

Situated within a 2,000 acre site, AMID is a fantastic example of the public and private sectors working in partnership with industry and academia to provide a superb resource cluster that offers every aspect of product innovation and development under one roof, so to speak. The aerospace, defense, transportation, resources and healthcare industries are all represented, along with blue-chip companies including Boeing, McLaren, Rolls-Royce, Arconic, Tata specialist steels, Outokumpu and Forgemasters.

There is a real energy and excitement around the site and this facility will prove invaluable for the entrepreneurs, business startup and incubators that need to support and resources to turn their imagination into a reality, and a reality that make money.

And again it is the transport network that’s going to support and drive these commercial enterprises forward and allow, shall we say, a young person to develop his or her skills at AMID Sheffield can advance their career in Leyland, Lancashire or Nissan on Teesside.

Looking at the Transport for the North’s vision I think that it is fair to say that our objectives are certainly much, much more than just a faster connection between Manchester and Leeds. Our priority is that the North’s economic assets are connected with a fast, reliable transport system that will benefit the whole of the region.

A strong effective northern network will have a dual benefit; goods to be manufactured and transported to national and international markets from their regional production bases and people can commute smoothly, efficiently, thereby enhancing their quality of life. This is something that the SCR and I fully agree on.

Currently SCR are working on their transport prospectus and I’m please to say that it very much reflects the priorities of TfN on a local level for the Sheffield City Region. We’re fully aware that we are nothing without our partners and a collaborative approach with help realise our vision.

I can also report that, as the journey to develop and deliver our Strategic Transport Plan continues to progress, the Transport for the North team are looking forward to visiting the region over the summer, hosting a number of stakeholder events in Doncaster and Sheffield.

 

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