Sheffield City Council transport and the climate emergency

What is Sheffield’s CO2 footprint?

There’s very little data available. Central gov rough overview.

SCC have commissioned the Tyndall Centre at Manchester University to produce analysis. The did this for Manchester’s carbon zero (2038) plan, and are leaders in this area. SCC didn’t publicise commissioning this, but have now said the report will be presented to Council on 3 July. Hopefully it will be published then too.

Inferring transport emissions from national data

Transport is a major contributor to CO2 emissions, and, if following national trends, is increasing. (This includes domestic aviation etc):

Local authorities have significant control over transport emissions as they authorise road network changes, parking and have powers over road charging and workplace parking levies.

Current Sheffield transport

Data on Sheffield from SCC traffic counts and latest UK census.

Car use is increasing, though car ownership is hugely unequal across the city, and most travel to work is short distances, under 5km. Air pollution is illegal in many places. There is large scope to improve lives in Sheffield while, and through, restricting car use.

Sheffield Air pollution data 2018 – collected by volunteers and council schemes, and coordinated by council.

Powers currently available

  • Road charging (‘congestion charge’ etc). 
    • Different to planned Clean Air Zone, which only targets older types of vehicle, doesn’t apply to cars, and aims to encourage buying more vehicles rather than reducing usage. Also CAZ (esp if expanded to cars) biases towards richer drivers who can more easily afford newer/cleaner vehicles – buying their way out of behaviour change.
    • Road charges could be targeted towards richer drivers (who drive the most so this will be most effective at reducing traffic and pollution) with exemptions for lower incomes, disabled people, carers etc)
    • Cities have full powers needed to apply charges (no formal requirement for consultation or central gov approval)
    • Would both reduce traffic volumes and raise significant funds – which are ring-fenced for transport, so could be used on street safety improvements for people walking or cycling, improving bus services, making streets better places for community with benches, planting, and trees, and better maintenance including clearing leaves and snow, damaged pavements and potholes.
    • Currently Sheffield has over 450,000 car/taxi trips per day. Even charging only a small fraction of these (ie some aren’t in city centre/main roads, and assuming some trips shift away from driving) even a small amount could raise large funds. A £2 charge (similar to a bus fare) on 100,000 trips, 6 days a week would raise over £60m/year. This is charging less than a quarter of existing car trips, so this amount could be raised even while assuming widespread exemptions (not charging majority of drivers) and large reduction in car use.
  • Workplace Parking Levy
    • Following Nottingham’s successful scheme, larger employers are charged for providing parking spaces, raising millions for local transport schemes.
    • Nottingham’s raises £9.3m per year – Sheffield has around double the population.
    • Was in Sheffield Transport Strategy 2018, and Labour 2018 manifesto: “study the economic and pollution impact of a Workplace Parking Levy and consult residents and businesses on the best way to implement this” (Not mentioned in 2019 manifesto)
    • Supported by Chamber of Commerce
    • Not clear why delay in progressing this
  • Limiting public parking
    • Council own some off-street car parks in city centre, and controls metered parking bays and on-street parking. Much of this (esp away from residential areas) could be closed/suspended (with access left for blue badge holders, deliveries etc) to reduce priority towards driving and reclaim large amounts of public space – for pedestrian/cycle use, pocket parks, planting etc. Parking would still be available off-street.
  • Experimental Traffic Control Orders
    • Changes to highway (stopping through-traffic with bollards, planters etc) can be applied quickly without full formal consultation and cheaper than in case of TROs. These could be used to create pedestrian priority areas and protected cycleways. Full consultation is required to keep changes after 18 months, which gives time to experiment and settle controversial effects.

Current Sheffield transport policy 

Updated Transport Strategy (March 2019):

Some encouraging re-evaluation of the need to act on climate since the current strategy, but no change in direction to do this.

Climate section revised (following IPCC 1.5C report) P282-283: 

“It is highly likely a significant proportion of the required reductions will have to be achieved by making better, and lesser, use of existing infrastructure and services.” 

And, referencing Manchester’s analysis of changes required, though noting this is still insufficient even to get to zero carbon by 2050, let alone 2030 or earlier, p283:

“Significant per-mile modal shifts in walking and cycling (+4 percentage points), public transport (+15pp), so reducing car mode share (-19pp)”

This stands in stark contrast with plans for more road expansion to accommodate traffic growth (details below), and in direct contradiction of the strategy’s stated aim of maintaining car traffic at 100% of current level until 2035.

SCC response to comments on the draft Transport Strategy:

Reducing car use is seen as impossible due to economic plans, p15:

“Without demand management [eg charges] that would undermine the Council’s pre-existing economic plans (given their emphasis on enabling travel to facilitate economic growth), we will not be able to achieve the outcomes identified for public transport, or for cycling, unless improvements [ie widening] to the Inner Ring Road.“ (my emphasis added)

Current road expansion plans

Google map of plans

S12 is under construction at a cost of £5 million.

Modelling to justify the choice of junction design predicts the new layout will move an extra 1500 vehicles per day during two peak hours – likely inducing several thousand daily extra vehicle trips in total.


What are the plans to progress/fund these schemes?

These ‘business as usual’ schemes swallow up vast amounts of money which needs to be spent enabling modal switch to less carbon intensive forms of transport.

Sheffield cannot achieve the carbon savings needed without radical changes to transport planning. And to do this we will need radical changes to economic assumptions and aims. 

This may include not judging plans on the basis of economic (eg Gross Value Added) calculations, but on carbon reductions, health implications and social equality and wellbeing.

One of the first actions SCC should take now it has declared a climate emergency is to abandon these road widening or ‘junction improvements’. Officers have already acknowledged (above) that reduction in congestion must be achieved by reduction in motor traffic.

One thought on “Sheffield City Council transport and the climate emergency

  1. As an avid cyclist of some forty years, I currently refuse to cycle on any road with motorised traffic-the risks of accident are too high and the noise and pollution of sharing the road with them is unpleasant. However at 66 with Sheffield being one of the hilliest places I have ever cycled in daily, I am aware that the cycling option is not as attractive for the very young, the old and those burdened with luggage-thus much as these schemes for reimagining streets are laudable and eminently attractive for many reasons, they MUST be accompanied by a revolutionary re think of public transport–affordable, fixed price–remember the Sheffield transport scheme when I first moved here 35 years ago–10p got you any bus ride and all buses were South Yorks –not this competing privatised mish mash of providers. Put that with either acceptable parking fees for those who MUST gain access by car or a free parking incentive–with accessible to shopping areas parking zones/ and you may be able to encourage non cyclists to accept that in terms of air quality/personal health/environmental benefits–the restrictions placed on their current freedom to drive /park would be worthwhile the effort of out of area parking and using a free shuttle bus. Cost is important to people and when the combined cost of road and rail travel is astronomically higher than using ones own car-even if one has to endure ridiculous traffic jams as our roads clog up–you will never persuade the majority to give up car ownership–why would they?!–but provide a reliable, cheap and frequent, easily accessible by any age public transport system with cycle roads and pedestrian walk ways built for their exclusive use, running alongside–and you can solve this congested nightmare–oh and have all the public transport non petrol/diesel obviously. All the money spent on Amey currently resurfacing our shamefully pot holed roads could have been adapted to beginning a radical overhaul that looked to the future instead of propping up the past. Shall Sheffield become a beacon of transport again?

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