SHEFFIELD will go from having ‘the worst roads in the country to the best’, it was promised this week, as details were announced of the rolling out of a £2bn highway repair programme.
The city will also have what is thought to be the most sophisticated LED street lighting system in the world as part of the largely Government-financed scheme.
After years of complaints about “pothole city”, work is due to start in September on the contract designed to bring all Sheffield’s roads, footpaths, street lights, traffic lights, highways, trees and bridges up to standard.
The first areas to be tackled will be inner-city Shiregreen and the rural community of Ewden, near Stocksbridge, to be followed in October by the industrial area of Carbrook in Attercliffe.
Work on 20 zones a year is being envisaged, each taking between 15 and 20 weeks. A start is being made on residential streets before moving on to main roads.
The council and contractor, Amey, warned this week that disruption would be inevitable, but that it would be worth it.
“Sheffield will go from having the worst roads in the UK to having the best roads in the UK,” said Mike Notman, Director of Highways PFI at Amey.
Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for environment, recycling and streetscene, said the state of Sheffield’s roads had been the number one issue with residents and businesses for many years.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve our roads, pavements, bridges and street equipment to provide our residents with a streetscene that they can be really proud of.”
Sheffield is being given £1.2bn over 25 years by the Government under a Private Finance Initiative, which ties the council to working with a private contractor.
The council will top up the fund to £2bn, most coming from the budget it would have allocated anyway for road repairs.
At a time when council spending was under intense pressure, the programme was “amazing good news”, said Coun Scott.
Amey has the job of upgrading the road over the next five years, then maintaining the standard for the next 20. The programme represents a huge logistical challenge.
Talks are being held with utility companies to try to ensure newly-surfaced roads are not dug up again, and with bus and tram companies, police and the fire service in a further attempt to minimise disruption.
A commitment is being given to keep residents and community groups informed about the work - and to avoid, as a last resort, cars having to be towed away.