The Government must deliver the transport infrastructure that the north needs. It’s vital to Sheffield’s economic future, as well as providing the services people need now. I have called on the Government to end the neglect and underfunding of transport in the north, and written to the Chancellor to urge him to support Transport for the North’s Strategic Plan, which includes Northern Powerhouse Rail and further strategic projects. I will keep up the pressure on these issues, as well as the need to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.
I have challenged Government consistently to invest more in railways, especially given the regional inequalities in funding which see Yorkshire receiving much less than London and the North-West, and have slammed unfair fare increases which hit commuters hard.
I have pressed the Government for better connectivity between Northern cities, calling for half-hour centre to centre journeys between Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, and highlighting the situation with late-running services. After timetable changes reduced the number of peak London-Sheffield services to make space for a local London services, I challenged Ministers, and pressed Transport Secretary Chris Grayling again when it wasn’t addressed.
I consistently pressed for track improvements and electrification of the Midland Mainline between London and Sheffield, and I was outraged by the Government’s betrayal of promises when they cancelled the electrification of the Midland Mainline to Sheffield and have urged them to think again, especially after I exposed the real cost to the environment. I also challenged Government ministers and Network Rail on repeated delays to the tram-train system between Sheffield and Rotherham, which is now running. I held a parliamentary debate on pedestrian access to railways stations and secured a subsequent meeting at which Government Ministers scrapped the plans to limit access to Sheffield station bridge.
HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail
We need significant investment in our rail network, especially in the north, to enable the rail network to provide for the growing number of rail users, improve services, reduce travel times and bring other benefits. As well as supporting HS2, which is focused on north-south connectivity to London, we also need improved connectivity within the north. I have backed HS2, which is threatened by Boris Johnson’s review and have called for the Chancellor to support Transport for the North’s strategic plan, which includes Northern Powerhouse Rail and other strategic projects and would massively cut journey times with Manchester and Leeds in particular, creating a real northern powerhouse between our three cities and helping to rebalance the economy away from London and the south-east.
I consistently campaigned against the proposal to locate the station in Meadowhall, and not the city centre, which is more accessible and makes economic sense. So I was pleased when HS2 bosses accepted this case.
Bus services are primarily a matter for local Councillors, but many bus-related issues are raised with me. I challenged the Government on fares and the decline in journey numbers which were raised with me in the Big Conversation, and I’ve campaigned to save bus services, pressed constituents concerns on local routes, and backed calls for a fare freeze for students. I strongly back Labour’s proposal to give cities more power over local transport.
Cycling and walking
Like many people in Sheffield I am a recreational cyclist and walker and take a close interest in the issues. I am a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and have written to Ministers to support Cycling UK’s campaign for proper investment in cycling and walking. I’ve also backed the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ cross-party report in a parliamentary debate and urged the Government to make all cities fit for cycling by investing in infrastructure, and supported the ‘Living Streets’ campaign, which makes it safer and easier for older people to get around the local neighbourhood on foot, and local ‘walking buses’ which take primary school children from their homes to their schools on foot.
We have a national problem with air quality, and Sheffield is one of 22 UK towns and cities that are exceeding NO2 limits. Sheffield Council are taking action, with the Cabinet agreeing a Clean Air Plan in November 2018, which went out for consultation in July . This includes a Clean Air Zone to reduce the number of polluting vehicles, with charges for older models of buses, taxis, lorries and LGVs, to come into force in 2021, but it is subject to approval by and funding from central Government. The plan also includes funding to support the drivers that are most exposed to the charging zone will be vital to achieve our clean air ambitions. The Council have also introduced anti-idling zones around the 20 most polluted schools to provide a targeted intervention there.
I’ve challenged the Government on providing enough funding for councils to address the issue and am keeping in touch with our Council to see what more I can do to help.
This is a selection of my work on this issue. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.