Road closures lasting up to 36 hours and bus services cut off in the north of Sheffield – welcome to the logistical realities of the world’s biggest annual sporting event.
Bringing the Tour de France to the streets of South Yorkshire is one of the biggest projects ever taken on by local organisations and has already been subject to months of planning.
There have been warnings of disruption since December 2012, when Yorkshire won its bid to host the famous cycle race’s opening stages, known as the Grand Départ, and now plans are being finalised to cope with the Tour and the estimated 250,000 visitors it will bring to Sheffield on Sunday, July 6.
Gary Clifton, major event and Tour de France manager for Sheffield Council, says the city was probably staging the ‘busiest’ section of the Grand Départ in Yorkshire and that 99 per cent of road closures were directly on the route.
However, part of the challenge is the uncertain factors still at play, including the exact number of people who will turn up to watch the ticketless race.
Mr Clifton says: “For teams on the ground on the day, there will be about 1,200 to 1,400 people working. We need to look after people. The challenge we have got is we can’t provide all the answers.
“Yes, it will disrupt people’s lives, but what we are trying to do is talk to people, tell them to plan early and change their plans if they can, and get them involved in the event.”
In coming weeks, road signs will remind residents of the Tour’s arrival and a Sheffield Spectator app is being launched so people can plan their days out.
Mr Clifton stresses the ‘global’ influence the race coming to Sheffield will have.
He says: “We want to inform people in advance, that they need to think now and if they do come it will be a long day. I got an email from one elderly gentleman saying he was going on his bike and could we save him a space.
“All we can is get the message out there. It is a challenge, but this is a good news story for Sheffield.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for people to come out and have a great day, a once-in-a-lifetime celebration.”
However, with less than 50 days to go some residents are realising the scale of the event – and that they will struggle to go about their daily lives on July 6.
Railway signalman John Flowers says he would be unable to leave Fox Hill for about 18 hours because road closures meant every access route out was blocked.
The 57-year-old dad, of Edge Close, says the city would be ‘split in two’ and raises concerns about the impact on elderly people and those needing treatment for minor injuries.
He says: “I normally work on a Sunday but I just won’t be able to.
“People who want to go to the church, or visit their relatives. About a thousand homes here will be cut off.
“A relatives lives in Stannington and he was going to come over and watch the race, but it will be a 25-mile journey rather than three miles.
“I can see no reason why they can’t give controlled access across the route, it’s not as if there’ll be bikes coming down every three seconds.”
Those working behind the scenes to co-ordinate the Tour say they are doing all they can to minimise disruption, and spread the word so that people can plan as early as possible.
Letters are being sent out to 17,000 residents and businesses close to the route to inform them of arrangements.
Final transport arrangements are still being made by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
But 35 bus services will be affected and the north of Sheffield will have a limited or no service after 1pm on race day. A normal service is unlikely to resume until the following day.
Julie Hurley, SYPTE interim director of strategy, says: “This is going to be a very significant event for the area and certainly in terms of public transport, the ability of people to get around could be disrupted but we are doing all we can to minimise that. Some people will still be able to get to where they want to go, but on a different or longer route.
“Some people won’t be able to, but its the same disruption for any major event – this will showcase Sheffield and South Yorkshire and its a fantastic opportunity.”
Extra trains, trams and staff are being laid on for the weekend to help the city cope with the influx of visitors.
Ms Hurley says: “We’ve got as many trams as we can out and we have extra services to Meadowhall – one every four minutes.
“We are encouraging people to plan in advance and there will be publicity telling people too, we want to give them as much notice as possible.
“It is quite a challenge and the difference is that this event is unticketed, but I do have some really good people here who are used to taking on this sort of thing and they know the bus network inside out.
“We’ve been having meetings for months now, we’ve got the best we can do in place.”
The longest road closures around the finish line at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena in Attercliffe will last about 36 hours, from Saturday morning until Sunday evening.
Other roads which are in the control of Sheffield Council are expected to be closed from between 7.30am to 7.30pm on race day.
Closures could affect deliveries to businesses and they are advised to stock up in advance. Most roads closed are directly on the route.
Mr Clifton said the aim was to reopen roads between two and three hours after the race had passed, but it depended on how long it took people to disperse.
“We’ll try to get things back to normal as soon as we can,, he says.
Roads closed for the TdF route are Mortimer Road, Kirk Edge Road, Oughtibridge Lane, Skew Hill Lane, Salt Box Lane, Halifax Road, Herries Road, Shirecliffe Road, Burngreave Road, Savile Street, Savile Street East, Holywell Road, Jenkin Road, Newman Road and Attercliffe Common.
Visit www.welcometosheffield.co.uk/tdf2014 or www.letour.yorkshire.com for more details.
Bus services affected by the Tour across South Yorkshire total 35 – but the majority are in Sheffield.
There will be disruption to all services north of the city centre with a ‘limited to no service’ after 1pm on race day. Bus routes will resume between 7pm and 8pm, but a normal service is unlikely to start until the following day.
More buses are to be laid on to transport people from other parts of the region to Sheffield.
Extra staff will be on hand at travel interchanges and in the South Yorkshire Traveline centre to answer queries.
Every tram in Sheffield will also be pressed into service to provide an enhanced link to the lower Don Valley and Meadowhall - with one tram every four minutes.
More than 90,000 extra seats will be available for passengers travelling by rail in Yorkshire from July 4 to 6.
Visit www.travelsouthyorkshire.com or call the Traveline on 01709 515151.
Where to watch
High Bradfield is the first spectator site in Sheffield after the peloton crosses the city boundary. A Steel Stage festival there combines cycling challenges and a beer festival.
Coronation Park, Oughtibridge will become a community-friendly site with a large screen, disabled viewing and children’s play area.
Abbeyfield Park is the last chance to catch the race on a big screen before the peloton hits Cote de Wincobank, on Jenkin Road.
Wincobank Common will be transformed into a family-friendly spectator site.
Meadowhall shopping centre is in the heart of the action and is hosting a free Fan Fest where fans can stand just feet away from the cyclists.
Don Valley Bowl is the designated spectator hub for action on the finish line with a 100 sq metre large screen, cycle expo and sculptures.
The Peace Gardens in Sheffield city centre are transformed into a festival with a music stage and live coverage.
Fargate will be turning French with a themed market, Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe.