Speech delivered at Sheffield Cutler’s Hall on 11/02/19
Welcome to Sheffield. Welcome to South Yorkshire.
I am delighted that Transport for the North opted for Sheffield as the location for its inaugural conference.
And it is fitting that they have.
Because communities across our region have made a significant contribution to the world of transport.
Sheffield steel was used to erect bridges and lay railway lines right across the world.
Barnsley has a rich history in railways that were instrumental to the functioning of the town’s many collieries.
Doncaster is the birthplace of some of the most famous locomotive steam trains in the world – including the Flying Scotsman and Mallard.
Continuing that tradition, Doncaster is now the home of the National College for High Speed Rail.
And just last year, we launched the UK’s first tram-train service between Sheffield and Rotherham, which incorporates ground-breaking technology that could pave the way for similar projects across the UK.
I was proud to be joined by the then Transport Minister Joe Johnson and together we launched the first service right on schedule at 8am.
But by 3.30pm, a lorry had crashed into the tram.
It just goes to show that there are some things you just can’t schedule for!
I also want to say how pleased I am that you could all get here today.
There’s a great irony in the fact that just last week, as Transport for the North agreed it’s Strategic Transport Plan,
the Sheffield City Region’s offices were half empty.
Half the staff were stuck on trains that had come to a complete standstill outside the city centre.
You couldn’t make it up.
So the fact that we are having this discussion now is timely – and we must make progress.
Because we all know that persistent issues and poor connectivity across the North has a real impact on our people and on our businesses.
It impacts on our residents living in semi-rural areas, who struggle to access the major sites of employment.
It constrains the reach of our businesses and is a drag on productivity.
It feeds into the very real sense across many Northern communities that they are cut off from the major centres of growth.
This stifles our competitiveness.
And it wastes the skills and talents of our workforce.
And when our residents do travel to the bigger cities, they often find themselves either sat in traffic jams, or on late and overcrowded trains.
The people stuck on those trains last week were frustrated.
They were frustrated that they were not able get to work on time;
They were anxious that they were going to miss connecting trains;
They were angry that they were let down by a transport system that is not fit for the 21st century.
Commuters and residents across the North face similar experiences every day.
They are looking to us to get it sorted.
And sort it we must.
In rising to this challenge, we should be guided by a simple principle:
That we connect our people to the places that they want to go.
And for business.
In December, I launched my Transport Vision for the
Sheffield City Region – which has that principle at its heart.
As part of that vision:
We will reduce travel times by investing in our existing infrastructure;
We will take a long-term look at where we need to invest resources to support new infrastructure development.
We will take a joined-up approach to integrating our motorway and road networks.
We are also looking at how we can improve public transport so that it is better integrated and better serves local communities.
In the coming weeks, I will be launching a major review of
bus services to explore how we can do this.
And we are promoting more active means of transport.
I know Andy Burnham has been a passionate advocate for active travel in Greater Manchester.
And Chris Boardman has been doing a sterling job as walking and cycling commissioner.
I am also looking to build on the legacy of the Tour de Yorkshire – which is why I am currently in the process of appointing the
Sheffield City Region’s own Active Travel Commissioner, to take a lead on this work.
This is not about telling residents that they should ditch their cars or public transport.
It is about giving them the option to lead healthier, more active lives, by investing in infrastructure to encourage walking and cycling,
and maybe even running – we’ll see how that goes!
And to drive forward this vision, our local authority leaders have agreed a Transport Strategy.
I think it is well known that we don’t always agree on everything in South Yorkshire.
But on this we’ve worked closely and constructively together to come up with an ambitious plan to transform our region.
This is the first time in South Yorkshire’s history that we have a plan that aligns with a wider pan-northern strategy to improve our transport networks.
And that strategy shows how projects on the ground can deliver results.
Because here in the Sheffield City Region, we know what we can achieve with investment.
Take the Great Yorkshire Way project as an example:
With an initial £56m investment, we were able to link Doncaster Sheffield Airport with the M18.
The last mile of Great Yorkshire Way is just about the most significant mile of road in the Sheffield City Region for decades.
And from that initial investment – and because of both the public and private sectors working together:
- our region unlocked £1.8bn worth of investment;
- it created 1,200 jobs;
- it supported national airport capacity by delivering airport growth.
- It aided the development of iPort – one of the UK’s largest logistics developments – which now has its own rail freight terminal.
This development is a central element of our plans for a
Global Innovation Corridor – which will connect our region’s advanced manufacturing companies with the global opportunities out there.
And all of this was achieved whilst regenerating a former colliery community.
Learning from each other.
That’s how we achieve things.
Which is why I warmly welcome the Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan.
Because it gives us the framework to work together.
And we are taking steps forward.
Only last week, we agreed our plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail – which will better connect Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Hull, Newcastle and Manchester airport.
But most of all, the Strategic Transport Plan reminds us that,
if we can say with one voice where we want to be,
and if we can show how we can get there,
we can unleash our full potential.
We can develop:
- A transport network that fully integrates all parts of the North.
- A transport network that connects our people and our businesses with opportunities both within and beyond our great towns and cities.
- A transport network that transforms our economy – so that it works better for the 15 million residents of the North.
This conference is an important step in that direction:
- It is the start of a process in which the North
takes ownership over our own destiny.
- It is a chance for us to gain a greater say and greater control over the transport investments that will shape our future.
- And it has the potential to bring together all the efforts across the North to build a transport network that is fit for the 21st
If we get this right – we can transform our economy for generations to come:
- We can rebalance the decades of underinvestment we’ve seen in our communities – many of which are still suffering the historic legacies of de-industrialisation.
- We could potentially unlock £100 billion in economic growth for the North’s economy.
- And we could create 850,000 additional jobs in the process.
That is the transformative change that we aspire to.
That is our ambition.
But we need Government to play its part with us.
The gap between London and the South East and the North is particularly stark when it comes to transport spending.
The government’s own figures show that in 2017-18, for every £1 spent on transport in Yorkshire and the Humber, £3.20 was spent on London’s transport networks.
This cannot go on.
Since being elected Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, I have been leveraging my position as an MP to help make the voice of the North heard.
And I have been making the case to Government that the North needs to see a greater level and a fairer share of national infrastructure investment.
We need to realise the potential benefits that investment across the North can bring for both our communities and for our national economy.
Because as we face the future, we need all parts of our country firing on all cylinders.
Communities across the North need change.
And we can deliver that change.
Because I know all of us in this room subscribe to that simple idea that
no community across the North should feel cut off from growth and economic opportunity.
The Strategic Transport Plan shows what can be achieved through political collaboration around that common objective.
It shows that we are confident;
It shows that we know what we want;
And it shows that we have a plan to get there.
But we can only achieve this if we work together:
- Public and private sector;
- Local, regional and national Government;
- Working with communities to deliver the transformative change that our people deserve and expect.
So today, our message to Government is clear:
We want you to work with us.
Because we have before us a unique opportunity to transform the North’s economy for generations to come.
So back us.
Get behind us.
Give us the powers.
Give us the funding.
And together, we will get the job done.