I’m excited to this month be heading to leafy Sheffield, in the heart of South Yorkshire, for the Local Transport Summit
Many eons ago, in my student days, I would often visit this great, proud city to sample the impressive nightlife with friends. Since then, the city and the wider region has continued to grow, with South Yorkshire recently announced as the UK’s first investment zone. This is great news, building on the strong industrial heritage of the region.
Sheffield and the wider region have made real strides towards delivering a transport system that works for everyone, connecting people to the places they want to go.
The region is home to country’s first tram-train and from next year it will bring the wider Supertram network in-house, so it is publicly owned and operated. Furthermore, work is underway to see if franchising might be the right model for improving bus services. And when it comes to active travel, the Mayor appointed Ed Clancy, the Olympic cycling champion, earlier this year as South Yorkshire’s Active Travel Commissioner.
But like most city regions in the UK, South Yorkshire faces several challenges, many of these replicated across all of the Urban Transport Group’s member organisations.
I believe there are four broad areas within transport that we must address, so that collectively we can develop good local transport that supports local communities.
Firstly, how do we create affordable and sustainably funded local transport networks that work for consumers, operators, transport authorities and Government alike?
Secondly, how do we restore trust in our transport networks, so that all people (no matter their age, disability, race or other characteristics) have the confidence that they can get where they want, when they want, safely and comfortably?
Thirdly, what change needs to happen to decarbonise our transport system, so that we can effectively meet our climate change commitments (as well as adapting it to more extreme weather events)?
And finally, how do we bring all this together to help increase the social value of our local areas, helping to create strong and connected places?
As a headline sponsor of the Local Transport Summit, the Urban Transport Group is seeking views on these questions that will help shape answers to these significant challenges. Over the course of the next few months, we will be publishing a series of missions which explore these four areas in depth to inform all political parties on how to go about tackling them, and the true prize that can be achieved by delivering on them.
Indeed, the Urban Transport Group is well placed to help find the solutions to these challenges. By using the experience and expertise of our member city regions – from Transport for London in the South, to Nexus in the North East - we can create sound policy propositions that can effect real change. And our role as a powerful convener within the industry, acting as a conduit for positive and purposeful engagement with, for example, operators and Government, means we can find common cause for the good of our local areas.
So, I am looking forward to taking part in a lively debate at the Summit, learning from the knowledge of South Yorkshire and beyond, about how we can ensure that local transport can create successful, vibrant local economies, which support thriving communities.
Jason Prince became Director of the Urban Transport Group earlier this year. He was previously Head of Public Affairs for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and, before that, at Transport for Greater Manchester.
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