A formal response has been sent to the Department for Transport following Transport Secretary Justine Greening’s offer of funding to look at a new bridge-based solution to resolve the long-running issue of maintaining pedestrian access through Sheffield station. The letter to the Department for Transport, sent by Paul Blomfield MP on behalf of Sheffield’s Labour MPs, Cllr Leigh Bramall and David Young of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive welcomes the offer of funding for a new bridge.
Paul Blomfield MP said: “Our letter confirms our welcome to Justine Greening’s offer to earmark funding to explore possible new bridges at Sheffield station. We’re looking forward to entering into discussions with the Department for Transport about the arrangements for the study to explore all the available options in order to maintain pedestrian access through Sheffield station. There is still a long way to go but we’re all 100% committed to working with the Department for Transport to maintain pedestrian access through Sheffield Station.”
The letter reads:
Thanks again for meeting with us recently and for your letter of 7th March. We are writing as the agreed ‘contact group’ for the Sheffield based stakeholders. Your clear interest in this long-running issue is much appreciated and we strongly support your recognition that open pedestrian access through the station must be maintained. We are very keen to work with you to achieve this and resolve this issue.
So we welcome your offer to earmark funding for a bridge-based method of maintaining access, not least because of the tight financial situation facing all the concerned parties. We agree that the option of a new bridge to the north of the station needs fully exploring, as does the option to upgrade the existing station goods bridge, and indeed the widening of the existing bridge which you raised at our meeting.
We are particularly grateful that you have asked your officials to consider the upgrading of the goods bridge which offers the potential to retain access through the station in a location close to the existing footbridge and tram stop. We also think this option presents a real opportunity to obtain the most financially attractive solution because, as Norman Baker said, this bridge will probably have to be demolished in its current form when the line is electrified. Considering upgrading the goods bridge for pedestrian access alongside the need to allow enough clearance for future electrification could produce long-term savings for the Department, as possessions could be shared and strengthening may need to be done to allow the wires to be slung underneath.
Whilst upgrading the goods bridge may result in a loss of current retail space, we believe that re-organisation of the current retail and office/storage space within the station may be feasible and should be looked at in more detail. We would also point out that providing a new pedestrian bridge to the north of the station could result in a loss of retail income at the station by reducing the footfall through the station concourse. The Network Rail commissioned report ‘The Value of Station Investment’, published in November 2011, confirmed that the level of commercial activity at the station has markedly increased since the station regeneration work concluded in 2006. The development of a successful retail hub within the station concourse has been hugely positive for the station and so it is our view that the bridge options study must take into account the impact on the commercial activity at the station that both bridge options would have.
We are also pleased that you have asked your officials to carry out a full study of the non-structural options. In your letter of 7th March, you asked for our views on the non-structural options deserving consideration. We feel that we did cover this in our letters of 1st and 2nd March, i.e.:
* more ticket inspectors on local trains;
* more regular, random spot checks on platforms as passengers leave busy trains;
* the increased use of on-platform ticket machines on small unstaffed stations near to Sheffield (as have recently been installed at Chapeltown, Dore, Elsecar and Wombwell stations);
* more coaches on peak time, busy services to allow conductors to undertake on-train ticket sales and checks;
* printing tickets at home via the web.
Clearly it will take more than a few days to consider these options, but we assume that they could be assessed alongside the bridge options study which you suggested would take six months.
In relation to your request for further information on bridge users, our current surveys of the existing footbridge use do not differentiate between those passing through and those accessing the tram.
We also wanted to let you know that Sheffield City Council is continuing to progress a voluntary Walkway Agreement (VWA) with East Midlands Trains. We trust that the DfT would be happy to support the VWA in order to formalise access across the current station footbridge for at least the interim period.
We very much look forward to hearing from you and for your officials to comment on the arrangements for the studies.
MP for Sheffield Central
Cllr Leigh Bramall
Sheffield City Council
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive