Speech delivered on Thursday 9 May at New York Stadium, Rotherham
Whether you walked, ran, cycled, or perhaps caught our new Tram-Train – thank you for joining me at Rotherham’s New York Stadium.
My first point is to ask – Why are you here?!
Why have you taken time out of your busy day to join me to discuss buses, bikes and trains?
I suspect that you are here for the same reason I am.
For the same reason I’ve made tackling our transport system central to my Mayoralty.
You probably believe, as I do, that physical mobility is central to
social mobility, cohesion and thriving communities.
It might be that you believe, as I do, that we all deserve to breathe
clean air – whatever our background, our profession or our postcode.
It might be that you believe, as I do, that the default for our daily commute shouldn’t be the car.
It might be that you believe, as I do, that it is unacceptable that we are in the midst of a public health crisis,
fuelled by a toxic cocktail of rising air pollution and decreasing levels of physical activity.
It might be that you believe, as I do, that buses should be cheap,
reliable and zero-carbon, whether serving urban or rural communities.
It might be that you believe, as I do, that public transport ticketing should be straightforward and affordable.
And the same whether you are on a bus, tram, train or indeed a Tram-Train.
It might be that you believe, as I do, that the only way to generate innovation in our businesses,
the only way to stimulate the flow of ideas and creativity of our people is through physical, tangible, real interactions.
And most importantly of all, you believe, as I do;
that it is about time that we lead rather than be led.
That’s why I’m here.
And that is why I hope you have come to be with us today, at this inaugural Transport Conference.
There are a number of people that I’d like to extend my thanks to for joining us:
- Dame Sarah Storey, the Sheffield City Region’s first Active Travel Commissioner and Britain’s most successful female Paralympian;
- Chris Boardman, Olympic Gold Medallist and Greater Manchester’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner;
- John Cridland, Chairman of Transport for the North;
- Clive Betts, Member of Parliament for Sheffield South East and chair of my recently launched bus review;
- Professor Steve Haake, Founding Director of the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University
- Dr Rachel Aldred, Reader in Transport at Westminster University;
- Simran Uppal, member of the Sheffield City Region Youth Combined Authority;
They, as I do, believe that transport is the key that unlocks
social mobility, growth and the talents of people from all our communities.
I am looking forward to hearing from them all later.
Now, I’ve been Mayor for exactly a year and two days – not that I’m counting – and I’m pleased that, here in the Sheffield City Region, on the issue of transport we’ve started to make clear progress on what I see as three critical areas; leadership, vision and funding.
I’ll take them in turn.
I’ve made transport my personal priority.
I’ve taken up my seat on Transport for the North, the body that has come together to ensure the North is no longer left behind on major transport investment.
I am pleased that we are front and centre of TfN’s plan for the North – led, by John Cridland.
It is the first time in our region’s history that South Yorkshire has a transport strategy that meshes with a wider, pan-northern plan.
I’ve formed a new Transport Board to ensure that the decisions we make are robust, informed, and in the best interests of communities across all of our region.
And I’ve brought on board the brightest and the best talent to move us forward.
None more so than my new Active Travel Commissioner
Dame Sarah Storey – here today after the rigours of the Tour de Yorkshire at the weekend –
and Clive Betts who, on my behalf, is leading a major review of our bus services.
Both Sarah and Clive will bring their own unique experience, drive and passion. And they are already making an impact.
With Clive and Sarah leading the charge I know I’m not in for a quiet life!
So, we now have the right leadership in place.
We also have a bold new vision for transport – with three very simple objectives.
One. Residents should be able to walk, cycle, drive or use public transport from their home to their nearest town centre in no more than 15 minutes.
Two. By using public or private transport, people should be able to travel between the region’s major town and city centres of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield in no more than 30 minutes.
Three. Journey times to at least four major cities in the North, including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Hull, will take no more than 75 minutes.
Stripping everything else away, it will be these three things that drive our investment decisions from here on in.
In January we ensured that they were locked into our new transport strategy.
So. We have the vision.
But, we must rebalance the decades of systemic underinvestment that has held back our region and others like it outside of London and the South East.
Figures from the IPPR tell us that, in the 2017/18 financial year, just £315 per person was spent on public transport in Yorkshire and the Humber – compared to £1,019 in London.
It is unacceptable, unfair, and unsustainable that spending on public transport – the very system that is designed to bring people together – is instead making our country more divided.
The Government holds the key to redressing the balance. And so, I have been using my position as both Mayor and an MP to get in the ribs of politicians and make Westminster & Whitehall sit up and listen.
I’ve led debates,/ I’ve asked Parliamentary Questions,/ I’ve pressed the Government on the rationale that underpins their Treasury Green Book methodology and I’ve spoken directly to Philip Hammond.
And I’ll be meeting the Transport Minister Jesse Norman to discuss these issues soon.
The only way we’ll land this is through reasoned and relentless pressure.
Be in no doubt. I’m doing that each and every day.
We’re also putting our best foot forward to land major investment in the short term.
I’m leading a Transforming Cities Fund bid that, if approved, would unlock major improvements in transport networks across our region, with a focus on Active Travel and public transport at its core.
We’re going to work directly with the Government on options for funding Supertram renewal – and doing all we can to extend the tram and the Tram-Train.
My team have also worked with Peel Airports and Doncaster Council on the development of proposals for full national rail links into Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
We must also ensure that every pound spent, whether by local councils, the city region or national agencies, is used in the most effective way.
And by working together, we can make every pound go further.
We’ve mapped priority transport corridors and have developed joined-up investment plans for road, rail, bus and tram, across our different council areas.
We’re also doing something right now about improving the affordability of bus journeys.
82% of all public transport journeys in South Yorkshire are still taken by bus.
We probably won’t ever get back to the bus pricing system that meant you could travel for just 2p a journey. But we can, and must, do something about affordability.
So, working closely with our councils, I’m looking at how we can expand our concessionary offers for those who need it most – for example, providing support to residents trying to get back into work or access education and training.
As Mayor I have the authority to act on bus services, including re-regulation. These things are not done lightly. But, I will do all in my power to make the real, marked, improvements our communities and businesses need.
So, with real leadership, with a clear vision and new funding we are well placed to deliver change.
But the changes we want to make cannot just be about investing in and improving bits and pieces of conventional road and rail infrastructure.
We need to move people, ideas and businesses around this region properly.
This means developing a genuinely region-wide public transport system, where rail, tram, Tram-Train and bus come together seamlessly.
It should not, can not, be beyond us to get on a Tram-Train from Doncaster Sheffield Airport and arrive in the centre of Doncaster, Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley.
It is to that sort of scheme that we must aspire.
And we’ve made a start. Late last year, I was at the launch of the Tram-Train service that connects Parkgate and the centre of Rotherham to the centre of Sheffield.
Now, just six months later, more than 500,000 passengers have made the same journey I did that day.
We now need to look what is next; and we have to tackle the great irony of modern transport and mobility/ we’re all moving more/ travelling further and longer. But too little of this mobility is powered by our own legs!
That’s not good for our health, our mental well-being, or the environment.
At the heart of this is choice. We need to give people as much choice as possible in how they move around our towns and cities.
Jokes aside. The pressure to act has never been so great.
Our motorways and major roads are under great strain – and by 2026, there will be up to half a million extra journeys taken on our road and rail network every day.
Car usage as a proportion of passenger journeys is increasing. We are seeing more cars on our roads, not fewer; and poor air quality blights parts of our region.
Bus patronage is falling. Year on year. And costs and congestion rise inexorably.
But the clean energy revolution is here. Autonomous vehicles are not far behind.
Transport networks, informed and steered – forgiving the pun- by big data and the technologies that are driving the next tech industrial revolution. These are all happening.
The demand for lighter cars, trains and planes is driving new innovation and technology. Some of that right here in the Sheffield City Region.
The Government has, belatedly, recognised the great Air Quality challenge, and is, I am pleased to say, supporting local councils to act.
But we need to do more.
And I believe that empowered young people, people like Simran from the Youth Combined Authority, inspired by the Greta Thunbergs of this world, will make sure their voice is heard.
But this is a 25 year project & there is a huge amount for us to do over the coming weeks, months and years.
But if we can harness the assets of the region; our research capabilities around lightweighting, our location at the heart of the UK, Doncaster Sheffield Airport, our fantastic green spaces, our two world leading universities, tram and tram-train potential then we can lead rather than be led.
Today is the start of bringing you all along with us.
I hope that you, to excuse the pun, enjoy the journey!