Letter: Making Sheffield city centre less convenient for cars will damage its future

This letter was written by D Smith of S10.

Monday, 8th November 2021, 4:33 pm
Footfall has increased in Sheffield city centre, according to a recent report. Picture Scott Merrylees

It seems that politicians of all parties want to be seen to be 'going green'. Unfortunately they rarely spell out how we are going to do this, nor explain the consequences for average and poorer people of doing so. Industry could be seriously affected too. Maybe this is because politicians simply don't have the answers, or perhaps they are too fearful to tell us.

The idea that the world can move away from coal, gas and oil, and become almost wholly dependent on electricity from potentially uncertain, expensive and unreliable sources seems rather fanciful based on current technologies. Biofuels are not really an acceptable answer, heat pumps seem expensive and ineffective, ways of producing hydogen are far from proven, solar and wind turbine energy is unreliable and needs a large back-up. The only realistic answer seems to be nuclear energy but progress there seems very slow. And yet I remember attending a lecture 60 years ago telling us that nuclear powered electricity would be so cheap as to be almost free!

My latest electricity bill tells me I'm paying 20p/kw hour, whereas earlier this year I was paying just 2p for gas. Gas currently provides us with a lot of our electricity which seems to imply that renewable energy must be more expensive?

I'm afraid that until governments and green lobbyists come up with an affordable and reliable way of providing our electricity I shall remain very sceptical as to how realistic it is to become so dependent on it.

Government is also keen that we use public transport. I've been a regular bus user in Sheffield for the last 45 years, but I can think of around ten occasions when my regular route has changed for the worse taking me further from where I want to be, either to the city centre or railway station. The latest change, removing buses from Pinstone Street, has very definitely made the bus service worse from my perspective. I wonder when was the last time a transport planner or bus company was honest enough to tell us they were changing the bus service to make it worse? Even the latest changes with reduced frequencies are advertised to 'improve reliability'!

The reality is that most people have cars and will continue to use them to get to work, go shopping at the many locations where free parking is provided, and for a whole variety of other reasons because cars are so highly convenient. Sadly, it seems likely that making the city centre less convenient to both car and bus users will continue to damage the fortunes of the city centre.

In the next few weeks government could be making an announcement on railway electrification and HS2. Sheffield needs to ensure that electrification of the main lines from the city to London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds are top priorities both to improve services and as part of the green agenda.

Sheffield is the largest city and busiest station not yet on the electrified network and it has a central position on the intercity network. As for HS2 I would be content for the eastern leg to Leeds to be largely abandoned provided HS2 trains to/from London can serve Sheffield by using the existing route between Sheffield and Tamworth and joining the HS2 route to London there.

I estimate that a 90 minute journey time would be possible, not much longer than if the eastern leg is built (bearing in mind that Sheffield is on a lengthy loop off it). If the eastern leg were built it would probably divert key services such as Leeds to Nottingham, and Newcastle to Birmingham away from the city meaning that we would actually be worse off.