Sheffield City Airport - Chamber Comment

25th February 2013

Prompted by recent discussions about Sheffield City Airport and High Speed Rail (HS2), Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

said: "Sheffield Chamber has been actively discussing with member businesses the issues around transport links in the region, and particularly those raised by Sheffield City Airport and HS2. -The Chamber Transport Forum, chaired by Tim Hale of Champion Hire, has looked at the overall connectivity issues for the region and several years ago developed a strategy they felt offered the best approach. It has lobbied hard to achieve it ever since. -As a Chamber we decided there were lots of desirables, but we needed to focus on those which gave the best return and a comprehensive infrastructure accepting that both resources and demand were finite. -We decided to focus on better road links, partly to help ease congestion in the city; better rail performance to London, through electrification of Midland Mainline; better rail services to Manchester; and the creation of a viable airport with good links to the whole region. -For better or for worse we accepted that Sheffield City Airport was unviable, and have worked hard to ensure the area becomes an attractive inward investment site through the creation of the Enterprise Zone. -We do not believe the region can support two airports. We have worked hard to support the wider business plan for Doncaster Sheffield Airport built around passengers, freight and businesses. -The recent announcement regarding a 300 percent increase in freight and the imminent construction of the FARRS link road vindicate our decision. We are talking actively about creating better links to a European Hub airport which we fully realise businesses want. -More recently, we campaigned for a HS2 station on the basis that if the national investment did go ahead then Sheffield City Region would be disadvantaged by not having one. We have supported the announcement, but realise there are still discussions to be had about the final site of the station and the connections with it to the rest of the region. -Taking a total view prevents us from making contradictory statements like the ones I have read from the Federation of Small Businesses, which has been arguing for the opening of Sheffield City Airport, because it would provide fast routes to London, but is against HS2 because London would be too near and we would lose business, shoppers and theatre goers. Which is correct? -As a Chamber we have tried to take a longer business-like approach which we believe is still valid and the best use of resources. We think very hard before we jump onto opportunistic projects that can be seen as totally contradictory to what we have been successfully arguing for some time. -I realise that in isolation the opening of Sheffield City Airport is attractive and if a private investor does have the funds and believes they have a good business case we will support them. -However, we would need much more certainty, and some real confidence that the region can support two airports, before we divert from a strategy that we believe is delivering massive benefits for the business community.

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