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A Magazine for Sheffield


Down at the railway station at midnight you can almost see the tumbleweed blowing across the tracks. Almost, because it's closed - lifeless, except for a trickle of late-night would-be travellers who can't believe that this major city has no night trains. Nearby at Rotherham the new station building is way overdue, with no explanation. For over a year passengers have had little shelter, no toilets and limited disabled access. Of the three trains per hour to Sheffield, two run within five minutes of each other. Hardly an excellent service. Sheffield's Supertram service would be better named Adequate Tram. It still hasn't been extended as promised and tram stops have no live information about arrivals. Our bus services are similarly restricted, expensive and apparently ignored by the powers-that-be, as We Want Our Buses Back has long protested. There are queues of complaints, but a basic one must be that many services don't use the bus interchange. First and Stagecoach, both bloated multinationals, now reap their profits from our reduced service, after the 1980s Thatcher government's forced privatisation carve-up of our once famously cheap buses. Strangely, the government retained an exception to the rule; in London, public transport stayed under local authority control. Evidently they don't want people in the capital suffering the pains of feral capitalism as the rest of the country does. Transport spending in London is £802 per person, compared to only £284 in the north, according to Lewis Goodall of the Institute for Public Policy Research North. Surely investment is being made in public transport? It's green, has a small carbon wheel-print and keeps the economy moving, doesn't it? Guess what Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership are enthusiastically throwing their weight behind? High-speed rail to London at an economy-rescuing cost of £40 billion. It probably won't even come to Sheffield but to Beighton, several miles away. Should we be pathetically grateful for any transport improvement? Who is this phallic mega- project really likely to benefit anyway? Businessmen, mostly. Oh, and politicians. That sort of money could improve an awful lot of local transport, for example the inter-city links between the industrial cities of the North - projects like the Woodhead tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester, long supported for by Re-open the Woodhead Line campaign. If this seems like a rant by Jeremy Clarkson's nemesis, it should be mentioned that a powerful coalition of interests has had a stranglehold on UK transport policy for decades. No surprise that it's not the urban bus passengers who make up the great majority of public transport journeys, but a lobby of business interests. They have concentrated on big road projects, cutting congestion before cutting pollution. They have invested far more in the south-east than the regions. And they're not listening to us. For example, there is overwhelming opposition to the closure of the bridge over Sheffield station, but it seems that gating may well be about more than mere ticket-dodging. What's public service and access compared with the one-in-a-billion chance of catching a a ticket barrier? Is it paranoid to suggest that's the reason why the Residents Against Station Closure pressure group recently found their Facebook page with 2200 supporters mysteriously shut down? The bridge will be even more vital to the success of the new amphitheatre-shaped South Street Park, now under construction on the hill behind the station. On its opening day, Saturday 17th September, why not join the merry protest march from Sheffield Hallam at midday, across the station bridge and into the new park with music and dance? Are you a public transport supporter? Do you care about bus and train use enough to write to the press like the angry brigade of motorists, forever moaning about cyclists, pot holes and congestion? Our public transport is neglected, inadequate and too expensive. Perhaps it's time to start protesting again. )

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