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Why is Leeds so much wealthier than Sheffield ?


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We were up in Leeds yesterday, we went to the museum and on a dinosaur trail. The latter was significant as regards the question posed on this thread, Sheffield has a trail of bear statues, Leeds has a trail of Animatronic moving dinosaurs ! And very impressive they were too.

Anyway, walking all around Leeds city centre the amount of money up there (compared to Sheff) is palpable, loads of impressive buildings (historical and modern), much construction going on (and not just student flats...), and loads of shopping centres, all of which appeared to be busy with hardly any empty units.

Didn't Sheffield used to be as wealthy as Leeds back in the 60s / early 70s ? It certainly is not now.
My theory is that Sheffield's wealth was based on steel, coal and heavy engineering, most of which has gone now.
Are there any better theories ?

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There are , arguably, several reasons…not least being a lack of local government vision... especially in the field of transport links.

Leeds is on a long established ,electrified ,main railway line to London. Leeds has a successful airport with links to  both UK and European ,none “ bucket and spade” ,destinations …which is run by a dedicated airport group. Sheffield closed its small business use airport and put its faith in a new airport ,several miles away and run by property developers .This airport  still has no business destinations and is now threatened with closure .

Leeds diversified its industries whereas Sheffield largely stuck with steel and heavy engineering…despite calls in the past not to put “all of its eggs in one basket. “. 

Importantly, Leeds has become an important banking, legal and regional government base with a  City centre offering a wide range of retail outlets and Leeds has a bigger hinterland than does Sheffield.

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1 hour ago, Lysanderix said:

There are , arguably, several reasons…not least being a lack of local government vision... especially in the field of transport links.

Leeds is on a long established ,electrified ,main railway line to London.

Leeds is on an electrified line to London but electrifying the line (in 1989/90) did not actually make that much difference to the times to London over the HSTs it used before. Even in the Deltic era Leeds to London was faster than Sheff to London because the ECML is a faster line. At present, on an average speed basis, it is a bit faster, but it is also a bit further to Leeds from London and most Leeds services make quite a few stops so the times are not that much different, in fact Sheff to London (2022 T/T) is actually slightly quicker, av of about 2hr 5min versus av of about 2hr 16m.

Sheffield actually has direct rail services to a very large number of destinations.
Sheffield does lack the sort of suburban railway service Leeds has, but on the other hand it has a tram system, unlike Leeds.

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All very true ,but for  years the rail service, granted via the ECML, from Leeds was much faster than the “ long , meandering and slow,” service from Sheffield ( and occasionally from Leeds) that the Midland Main line offered. Yes, we have a tram but it  serves a very limited area and needs extending and there are no signs this will happen anytime soon.

We are talking about why Leeds is more affluent. I was pointing out some of Sheffield’s past weaknesses and not about the current train timetable which is, I grant you, an improvement ,but hardly likely to solve the historic problem of connectivity ( what a horrible word) with the booming metropolis and the south east. Not to mention the sad saga of an airport!

As an old Sheffielder ,my attitude toward our rival City was typical. I cheered when Leeds United lost and laughed when we had two Premier league teams to the solitary one at Elland Road. This stopped when my daughter went to Leeds University and I became a regular visitor ….and like Saul on his way to Damascus…the scales were lifted from my eyes. I started to see Leeds in a new light!🙂

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Leeds became wealthy in the 1700's, when Sheffield was virtually a small village.

One of the main reasons was that Leeds had the Air and Calder Navigation, built in 1699, which was used
as the main export route for the cotton and linen industries.    

Sheffield had very poor roads and no canals.    The Sheffield Tinsley canal was not built until 1819.

This hindered the development of Sheffied

Wealth creates wealth and Leeds had a good 150 years start on Sheffield.

 

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Both Sheffield and Leeds competed to get the National Armouries Museum when Meadowhall was being built. If you look into the reasons why Leeds won it will probably give an answer to the question.

Other reasons could be that Leeds is central to more towns and cities than Sheffield is, so can pull in more people from around it. Whereas Sheffield can only really pull in Rotherham people and until recently didn't have transport links to do that.

The BBC concentrated their power base in Leeds and we only had a Yorkshire (ITV) TV base, which is now lost.  

Funding for new business was concentrated out of the Sheffield TEC - Training and Enterprise Council. Unfortunately this TEC was only interested in operating back to work dole schemes. Which didn't create "real jobs". As each TEC was quite unique it what it did, I suspect that the Leeds one was more flexible in giving grant money to schemes which created real jobs. 

Land use. If you build a big factory on a piece of land - you get one rent payer.  If you build 20 units on the same plot - you have to collect 20 rents. So Sheffield landowners built one factory units on one plot. This didn't encourage small business.

Lastly rates. The high rates levied by the Labour controlled council, did protect services and some jobs, but at the cost of redevelopment. The council being opposed to the dole schemes also put them at odds with the Sheffield TEC and so any real job creation didn't come out of either of these bodies.      

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I think a lot of it comes down to infrastructure and location. Leeds sits at the end of the M1 and the motorway network goes into the heart of the city rather than bypassing it. Leeds is a rail hub on the ECML and also for trans Pennine services. It has better access to both Hull and Liverpool and Manchester so historically has had better access for exporting goods and services. In recent times there has been far more investment in Leeds City Centre as both a business and retail centre whereas Sheffield has seen declining investment until recently. Leeds is also seen as the economic capital of Yorkshire. I am a Sheffielder and it pains me to be bigging up Leeds but the facts speak for themselves.

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Maybe another reason is that Leeds can currently attract multi millionaires to live there as it currently has a 6.5 million detached house (mansion actually) for sale on that certain house price site, while you can only get 1 and half million property in Sheffield. 

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Very true ,but we did have a large number of small businesses…all related to steel and engineering…witness the “Little Mesters”. Many were inefficient, used archaic production methods and closed when they met global competition after tarrifs were reduced...as did many of our larger companies.

I think location and infrastructure are the main reasons for Leeds success. Sheffield is on the foothills of the Pennines where fast flowing streams encouraged the establishment of “ metal bashing” and its skilled workforce contributed to the expansion of that industry …whereas Leeds , being more or less on the Yorkshire plain ,does not suffer from hills which in the past led to the relative isolation of Sheffield.
 

As I was taught at school …if fast flowing water, millstone grit , ganister and low grade iron ore, been available at Doncaster then that place would have been bigger than Sheffield by virtue of its position.As it is ,Leeds was /is more easily accessible by land, water and ,more recently ,air  than Sheffield.

 

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It wasn't till the 1980's when Sheffield went into decline with the decline of those industries that relied on the resources that Sheffield had to offer. But Leeds was cloth making City and that declined too. The situation was that Leeds found a way to overcome its major industry loss and Sheffield didn't. It's true that transport links are important. And if you look at the industry around the Sheffield Parkway, you can safely say it's there due to that road alone. It's not an overall decline in Sheffield, it's more down to specific areas, notably the town centre and Attercliffe. Indeed in some parts of Sheffield house prices are high and the local shops are still there.  But it takes investment of all sorts to make a good city centre. Something lacking in big time here. Look at the investment that was done in the Sheaf Market early on. And the well designed at the time Castle Market located at a prime position. But the Moor Market lacked design, had no discernible features and was badly located. It probably should have gone on Fargate with a design such as The Winter Garden or the like giving it an open feeling and full of character. 

Type Sheffield into Google images and you get a lot of stuff which makes it sound like a University town. Was the intention for that to happen?   Here's some examples:

image.png.506acf5de26307ac2d11963ac601e95d.png image.png.2bbc869b322e84e761f736e03d30fed6.png

 

2022-08-04 19_43_21-Luxury Student Accommodation Sheffield _ 2022_23 Prices Are Now Live!.jpg

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Well, it is a university town and it also possesses a couple of outstanding teaching hospitals…linked to the universities. Leeds was , indeed ,a textile town but it also had forges and engineering companies…including locomotive building .World War Two also brought to Leeds the MASSIVE Lancaster building facility at Yeadon …which would become the basis of their airport…as well as the expansion of its Royal Ordnance Factory at Barnbow.

It seems to me that complacency was a problem with our Councillors and Corporation who , for instance, declined a share in the developing East Midlands Airport, fervently opposed the Conservatives in their single year in post War power  by cancelling the planned airport at Todwick as soon as Labour regained power….as Councillor Wilson said “ let some other bu**ers have the noise and smell.”. They were slow to recognise the need for more office accommodation and  were retiscent to accept the need for diversification. …

They were happy in the supposed glow of the “Peoples Republic of South Yorkshire “…and even protested  at declaring a rate….whilst the rest of the country looked at us ,with no little curiosity ,and progressed whilst we languished in the past….remembering when “one square mile of the City was more vital to the War effort than anywhere else in the UK.”

 

 

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On 04/08/2022 at 16:54, ewanarm said:

I think a lot of it comes down to infrastructure and location. Leeds sits at the end of the M1 and the motorway network goes into the heart of the city rather than bypassing it. Leeds is a rail hub on the ECML and also for trans Pennine services. It has better access to both Hull and Liverpool and Manchester so historically has had better access for exporting goods and services. In recent times there has been far more investment in Leeds City Centre as both a business and retail centre whereas Sheffield has seen declining investment until recently. Leeds is also seen as the economic capital of Yorkshire. I am a Sheffielder and it pains me to be bigging up Leeds but the facts speak for themselves.

Leeds benefits from E/W (M62) as well as N/S (M1 / A1) motorway links, but Sheffield doesn't do so bad. The M1 curves right round Sheffield and also acts as an outer bypass, plus we have the M18 going east. Sheff is also closer to the centre of the country than Leeds is.

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On 04/08/2022 at 16:54, ewanarm said:

I think a lot of it comes down to infrastructure and location. Leeds sits at the end of the M1 and the motorway network goes into the heart of the city rather than bypassing it. Leeds is a rail hub on the ECML and also for trans Pennine services. It has better access to both Hull and Liverpool and Manchester so historically has had better access for exporting goods and services. In recent times there has been far more investment in Leeds City Centre as both a business and retail centre whereas Sheffield has seen declining investment until recently. Leeds is also seen as the economic capital of Yorkshire. I am a Sheffielder and it pains me to be bigging up Leeds but the facts speak for themselves.

Sheffield no longer has a John Lewis, Leeds has a very large modern posh one.

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On 04/08/2022 at 16:57, Lysanderix said:

I think location and infrastructure are the main reasons for Leeds success. Sheffield is on the foothills of the Pennines where fast flowing streams encouraged the establishment of “ metal bashing” and its skilled workforce contributed to the expansion of that industry …whereas Leeds , being more or less on the Yorkshire plain ,does not suffer from hills which in the past led to the relative isolation of Sheffield.

I agree that to the west transport links are very poor, it is incredible to me that that main road between two large cities (Manchester and Sheffield) is Woodhead ! A single carriageway road which is quite winding in many places and is frequently shut in the winter......
I cannot see them ever building a D/C now, not with the present attitudes to road building v the environment, plus the cost of it, wasn't the section of the M62 over the Pennines the most expensive motorway built (per mile) in this country ?
There were plans at one time to build a bypass to get onto the M62 from the M1 (north bound), the Flockton Link road. Apparently it's on the cards again but it would still not be any where near as convenient (for Sheffielders) as a D/C Woodhead.

On the other hand transport links north, south and east are pretty good, though I will never understand why the M18 (east of the A1) was built with only two lanes. Even the M180 to Scunthorpe has three !

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Many of us will never understand why the post war electrified rail line from Sheffield to Manchester was closed. As an old railway “buff” I have heard all the arguments but I will never agree the  supposed logic behind it ,when streams of polluting lorries battle over Woodhead ,on a daily basis ,to meet a huge traffic bottleneck before their destinations in Lancashire…with passengers going along a pleasant,unimproved ,scenic route( I am aware that decades later improvements are being made).but then again, I forget this is England and this is in a northern region.😳

On a different tack ,I remember the days when Sheffield was something of a boom town with full employment .Some weekends Foreign tourists would come to Sheffield …in some numbers….via the ferries at Immingham and Hull. Men generally went to watch United or Wednesday ,whilst the ladies indulged themselves by shopping in a City centre famed for its length and variety of retail outlets ,including at least 7 departmental stores. 

Today, in their infinite wisdom ,our Council are offering a creation of shipping containers. 😧

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Just now, Lysanderix said:

Many of us will never understand why the post war electrified rail line from Sheffield to Manchester was closed. As an old railway “buff” I have heard all the arguments but I will never agree the  supposed logic behind it when streams of polluting lorries battle over Woodhead ,on a daily basis ,to meet a huge traffic bottleneck before their destinations in Lancashire…..but then again, I forget this is England and this is in a northern region.😳

Being a rail enthusiast I was very disappointed when the Woodhead line closed, but, unfortunately, those who think it, or any railway anywhere, would make more than a marginal difference to road use, well not really. Particularly with the price of train fares, esp flexible tickets.
My brother lives in Manchester, we live in Oughtibridge, to get to his house by car, even over the inadequate Woodhead, takes about 50 min, a bit more with bad traffic around Mottram (which is finally getting a bypass.....). By public transport, an hourly bus into Sheff (or a bus then a tram, then another tram), then a train across to Piccadilly, then finally a bus from there to my brothers : totally impractical.

As regards freight, other than bulk train load or containers over long distances, rail doesn't hack it for that either. Businesses want door to door with minimal handling.

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Just a few observations.

1) Our rail fares are amongst the highest in Europe.

2) In inclement weather the Woodhead and Snake can suffer delays. My grandson was at Manchester University and his parents ,who live not a million miles from Oughtibridge ,often spend more than 50 minutes in winter on the road when visiting him.

3) Some other European countries still maintain general rail freight services whereas, as you say, ours has descended into bulk movements or containers…..which,generally, have to be moved from the railhead to customer by road…..or with Groupage …to a depot where they can be “unstuffed” and again moved by road to their ultimate destination. Hardly a single door to door movement…..but necessary with the virtual elimination of conventional sea freight.

I suspect, at this point ,we are digressing from your original question.🤤

 

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55 minutes ago, Lysanderix said:

Just a few observations.

1) Our rail fares are amongst the highest in Europe.

2) In inclement weather the Woodhead and Snake can suffer delays. My grandson was at Manchester University and his parents ,who live not a million miles from Oughtibridge ,often spend more than 50 minutes in winter on the road when visiting him.

3) Some other European countries still maintain general rail freight services whereas, as you say, ours has descended into bulk movements or containers…..which,generally, have to be moved from the railhead to customer by road…..or with Groupage …to a depot where they can be “unstuffed” and again moved by road to their ultimate destination. Hardly a single door to door movement…..but necessary with the virtual elimination of conventional sea freight.

I suspect, at this point ,we are digressing from your original question.🤤

Yeah, but interesting none the less !
Actually, possibly not, BR invested huge amounts in Tinsley Marshalling yard (for the heavy industry round Sheff) now it's closed. Having said that a small container terminal was opened there last year, though it is far smaller than the Freightliner terminal at Leeds.....

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2 hours ago, Lysanderix said:

Many of us will never understand why the post war electrified rail line from Sheffield to Manchester was closed. As an old railway “buff” I have heard all the arguments but I will never agree the  supposed logic behind it ,when streams of polluting lorries battle over Woodhead ,on a daily basis ,to meet a huge traffic bottleneck before their destinations in Lancashire…with passengers going along a pleasant,unimproved ,scenic route( I am aware that decades later improvements are being made).but then again, I forget this is England and this is in a northern region.😳

On a different tack ,I remember the days when Sheffield was something of a boom town with full employment .Some weekends Foreign tourists would come to Sheffield …in some numbers….via the ferries at Immingham and Hull. Men generally went to watch United or Wednesday ,whilst the ladies indulged themselves by shopping in a City centre famed for its length and variety of retail outlets ,including at least 7 departmental stores. 

Today, in their infinite wisdom ,our Council are offering a creation of shipping containers. 😧

The Woodhead line ended in two stages, first the withdrawal of passenger services in 1970, then the end of freight in the 1980's. The first part of the closure was due to the fact Sheffield had two competing railway stations. Midland was chosen because it had a north south direct route, whereas Victoria needed north trains to reverse out to continue south. This was fine when two railway companies operated the railways, but when British Railways were put in charge in didn't make sense to have two stations. The other side that kept it open longer was coal for the power stations. As they closed down the fleet of class 76 electric locos were stood around doing nothing. The electric system was also a mistake and was never implemented elsewhere on the BR system, by the time it closed completely the life of the locos were also up.  At the time of closure railway investment was really low. And it would have needed the whole system to upgrade to 25KV AC and probably a great deal of other improvements. Goods operators only need to buy new trucks, motorists of all kinds are subsides to use the road system and don't pay the full cost of road repairs. Plus the additional costs of the heath system, police needed to drive down a road. If they did we would see permanent road closures just like the railway systems! 

Goods trains have returned to the railways. Millions of tons of household waste travels on trains, called "Bin Liners." Ash from the new power stations travels by train to the road making sites in the Peak District. A lot of it travels at night. But that happened to late for the Woodhead route.    

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The Great Central railway was responsible for the last main line to be built….connecting Sheffield ,directly ,with London St Marylebone. This extension line was also built to the wider, Continental ,loading gauge…..and, of course, gave Manchester another connection to the Metropolis. I grant that trains to the north needed to reverse but as engine changing was not unique a change of direction being no problem….trains to Manchester Airport from Sheffield ( are they still running?)change direction at Manchester Piccadilly.

If we go to British Rail days we find the line was placed with the North Eastern region who continued its use and ran the prestigious South Yorkshireman and Master Cutler expresses along the route to London .However, latterly ,it was transferred to the Midland region who effectively gave it the “ kiss of death” ….transferring clapped out rolling stock and eliminating many services. Victoria became  almost a ghost of itself and Sheffield was dependent on a  line which was once known as  being ….Long, Meandering and Slow….the LMS.

Leeds had a couple of stations which were merged and a virtually new station built …which managed all of its earlier services.Sheffield, largely because of the Midland stations confined position ,was not in a similar position and still suffers congestion at its “throats” .The  once direct service to Penistone ,Huddersfield and thence to Bradford now meanders ,via Barnsley.

The electrification of the Woodhead route was planned pre War and used the latest technology then available. It was a system using direct current…which was thought safer and was the system being developed on the Continent ,including the Netherlands…..who ,immediately post War  ,used the prototype class 76 …which they named “Tommy”The NS eventually bought a number of the redundant class 77s….which had been specifically built to run the passenger services.

25 kva came along and it was deemed uneconomical to connect the Woodhead route to the emerging BR standard. Had we been in the south one wonders if this would have been the case especially after the relatively recent  investment in the route including the new Woodhead tunnel.

I am prejudiced .I am a scion of a family with roots going back to the  days of  the MS&LR.🙄

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FYI, on the Esk Valley Line trains change direction at Battersby.  Of course they are only local bug units so the change of direction is trivial.

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Darnell-gennel mentioned Leeds early access to a canal compared with Sheffield. A little research shows that the river Don became navigable from Fishlake as far as Tinsley in 1751. This work in improving navigation was due to Doncaster Corporation and the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. The quayside at Tinsley became an important site for Sheffield’s growing trade. It was last used in 1969 .

I should have remembered this since the original canal offices became ,in 1846 ,those of the newly established The Tinsley Rolling Mills Co. Ltd ….where ,back in the late1960s ,I was a Manager and , incidentally, organised the last shipment of steel bars, by barge, to Hull docks using the canal from Tinsley.

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I grant that trains to the north needed to reverse but as engine changing was not unique a change of direction being no problem….trains to Manchester Airport from Sheffield ( are they still running?)change direction at Manchester Piccadilly.

But you are forgetting that at the time of the closure engines needed to go to the other end of coaching stock to restart going in the right direction. That added a great deal of time to through expresses. Later on the double ended trains mealy require the driver to walk around to the other end of the service. All of which can be achieved in the stopping time of the service.  But these trains were not available on express services, apart from the Midland Pullmans and by 1970 these had fallen out of favour.  

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They  often changed motive power! A fresh one and crew taking over …as frequently happened as a matter of course at Leicester ,,with trains to and from the south. For a period, a number of class A3s ( including Flying Scotsman) were shedded there for this very reason.

Engines were always changed at Sheffield for trains to Manchester as well as those ,for instance ,from the north of England to Bournemouth .Indeed, in B R days this once saw a GWR Hall class taking over on an unsuccessful trial… due to platform clearance.

Mainline steam powered  passenger trains seldom ran tender first ,unlike those on preserved railways. …so running around the train ,as happens on preserved railways ,was not the standard practice. For instance, the B17 powered boat train ,to and from Harwich ,Parkeston Quay ,was turned before retracing it’s steps after transferring its coaches for Manchester to a class 77 electric… to await a return service from Manchester and thence  back to Parkeston Quay.

I grant you it was not very efficient …but steam traction never was…unlike diesel power and, dare I say, 1500 volt dc traction.

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