Doncaster Mayor denies claims that HS2 grant has been diverted away from airport for tram renewal

The Mayor of Doncaster has responded to claims from an MP which revolve around the regional authority’s use of devolved transport funds.
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Mayor Ros Jones released a statement today (Wednesday, November 22) rebuking claims from Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher that government funding from the cancellation of HS2 has been wrongly diverted away from saving the region’s airport.

It comes after it was announced last month that the northern leg of railway project HS2 would be scrapped.

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A £543million grant to the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) was announced as part of the replacement Network North scheme, funded directly by costs saved from the cancellation of HS2.

Supertram 2 - Credit: SCR.Supertram 2 - Credit: SCR.
Supertram 2 - Credit: SCR.

It will be granted through the second round of the City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS2), for a total of £1.4billion in South Yorkshire.

The settlement is granted by central government to several metropolitan areas, to be used on schemes to improve transport connections.

The full CRSTS2 grant is expected to be available from 2027, with the potential for smaller portions to be granted in 2025/6.

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During a meeting of the SYMCA board last week, South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard presented a case to renew operation of Sheffield’s Supertram Network.

If approved by the Department for Transport, the renewal will cost an estimated £596million.

Mayor Coppard proposed that £100million of the funding is taken from the first CRSTS, while the remainder “will be sought from government grant such as CRSTS2”.

The move was approved by the board which includes Mayor Jones and representatives from each council in the region.

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On Tuesday (21 November), Mr Fletcher criticised the move in a lengthy post which associated the tram costs with the additional funds available in CRSTS2.

He wrote: “On 14th November our Mayor went to a meeting held by the Mayor of South Yorkshire to approve how the HS2 money was to be spent. You will recall the additional sum of £543million granted to him due to HS2.

“We all know of the Mayor of Doncaster Council’s determination to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at getting the airport reopened. Would she be asking for the £1.45billion to be used to securing our airport’s future? She did no such thing. In fact it’s worse than that.

“The proposal she went to vote on had nothing to do with the airport at all.

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Instead it was to spend £596million on trams for Sheffield. £100million had of course already been taken as a top slice from the first fund.

£496million is of course 91.3 per cent of the £543 million.

“The Mayor of Doncaster said nothing. Nobody objected to the proposal.

It was put to the vote and all agreed that £596million should be spent on Sheffield’s Supertrams. That additional £496million is nearly all of the HS2 windfall.

“Surely the first priority is to focus on the airport, which will be by their own calculations over 13 times better for the economy than trams in Sheffield.

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“Devolution has been a disaster for Doncaster. We have seen powers not exercised. We have seen the airport not supported. We have seen it close and now we have this. Trams or planes?

“It’s clear to me that this new money is burning a hole in this Sheffield born and raised South Yorkshire Mayor’s pockets. He’s using it for his favourite pet project. Sheffield and its trams.”

Mayor Ros Jones shared the following statement in response:

“As I have stated previously, the indicative allocation from CRSTS2 is £1.455bn for South Yorkshire with delivery between 2027-2032. We expect to see criteria from government for this in late 2024/early 2025. At this stage there are no definitive schemes at a South Yorkshire level for CRSTS2 due to the criteria not being set by government.

“The report mentioned was for South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority to submit the outline business case to government for tram renewal. It clearly states that 100 per cent funding for the remaining £496m of estimated costs will be sought from government grant such as CRSTS2. SYMCA hope for financial support from government similar to the £2.5bn allocated for West Yorkshire Mass Transit.

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“If government refuse this, then Sheffield could request that some or all of their allocation from CRSTS2 be put towards tram renewal. Sheffield allocation should be roughly 42 per cent of indicative £1.455bn, accounting to roughly £611m.

“I expect Doncaster projects to receive circa 22 per cent of the allocation based on a percentage share. This equates to approximately £320m for Doncaster between 2027-2032.

“It is important to remember that these CRSTS2 allocations are indicative and it is ultimately the Department for Transport and Treasury that have the final say on which projects get funded and the allocations. These schemes are for delivery for 2027–2032.

“In terms of CRSTS2 my priority is transport links to Doncaster Sheffield Airport and a bus service that is fit for service for the people of Doncaster. We will start working up schemes once we know the criteria from government.”

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Mayor Jones criticised Mr Fletcher for not seeking clarification from herself or Mayor Coppard before making his comments. She added that she has written to Mr Fletcher requesting that he rebuts his claims and “apologises to the people of Doncaster”.

Mr Fletcher has not yet responded to the statement.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard for comment.