A major transport overhaul of transport for Greater Manchester beginning in 2018, has been announced by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.
The Mayor addressed the Urban Transport Group in Leeds outlining his ambition to deliver a safe, reliable, affordable and fully integrated high capacity transport network, with customers at its heart.
The full text of the Mayor’s Speech is below:
A 21st Century Transport System for Greater Manchester
If you take a look at my Twitter timeline on any given day, you won’t be left in much doubt about the biggest concern for the majority of people in GM.
I receive many reports of people’s daily commute in pretty graphic and painful detail.
But I don’t blame them at all and in fact I would encourage them to keep them coming.
The arrival of a Mayor with responsibility for transport has provided something that was sorely lacking – a single person, working in partnership with our ten Council Leaders, who has the ability to bring some accountability to a fragmented system which, to them, is frustratingly unaccountable.
Of course, concern about transport in the North is nothing new. The difference is it can no longer be ignored.
We are at the beginning of a period of unprecedented change for the UK.
As we face up to a future outside of the EU, issues traditionally relegated to the low priority pile by Whitehall, such as skills and transport, are now becoming urgent.
Greater Manchester and other UK city-regions know we will have to work even harder and smarter to attract inward investment. To do that, we need ambitious plans to improve our connectivity within, with each other and with the rest of the world.
The truth is we are some way from where we need to be.
You only have to try driving from here along the M62 and then the M60 into Manchester during rush hour to see that.
A journey which once would have taken less than an hour can now take well over two.
The unsustainable level of congestion on Northern roads is the result of governments of all colours over many decades failing to invest in the infrastructure and services we need and failing to create services across all modes which are affordable, integrated and accountable – in other words, a genuine alternative to the car.
In large parts of the North, people cannot rely on public transport to get them to work. They either have a poor service, a patchy service or no service at all. They are stuck in their cars on roads which are slowly seizing up.
Others aren’t even that lucky. Those who can’t afford a car are stuck at home missing out on study, work and leisure opportunities. Some face loneliness and isolation; those in low paid work or on irregular shift patterns are at risk of economic or social exclusion.
We can’t carry on like this.
We need a transport system that builds an inclusive society where everyone can get around and get on.
If that is to happen, transport policy-makers need to listen to the public to understand how bad things have got.
Earlier this year, I asked Transport for Greater Manchester to carry out a Congestion Conversation.
Around 7,000 public responses were received – an indication of the strength of feeling.
When asked about the effects of congestion, nine in ten reported that it had increased their levels of stress and anxiety. Half said it had had a major impact. Eight in ten say it makes them late for work.
And we wonder why the North has a productivity problem.
One respondent said: “Congestion lengthens my working day by in excess of four hours! That’s four hours more childcare, and less time to spend with my family.”
Worryingly, seven in ten believe it has discouraged visitors and is a deterrent to investment in GM.
Another response said: “All business meetings at my company have been relocated outside of Manchester due to traffic.”
A number of respondents identified our limited public transport offer.
They are right; in Greater Manchester, as in many UK cities outside London, it is simply not good enough.
Our trains are packed-out, clapped-out and over-priced.
Our buses are over-priced and a confusing free-for-all.
Our motorways endlessly trapped in over-running roadworks.
But our problem is not just that are our separate transport modes not good enough individually; it is also that these modes cannot be integrated to work as one system.
The lack of investment from central government over many years is of course a major part of the problem.
But it is not just about money.
This is also a story of failed ideology, policy incoherence and lack of public accountability. And the failure of Government to give power to local leaders to develop coherent transport plans means they have been unable to correct these flaws.
Leaving bus services to the free market has not worked. It has brought fragmentation and confusion. Two statistics provide evidence of failure: in unregulated Greater Manchester, 350 million bus journeys a year in the mid-80s have become just under 200 million today; in regulated London, bus usage growth is almost the mirror opposite.
A whole range of transport bodies, from Network Rail to Highways England to the bus companies, are not sufficiently accountable to local commuters.
Regional transport bodies like TfGM are more accountable to local people but, as they have limited sway over these bodies, they are unable to make sense of the chaos and integrate it all.
Visitors to Greater Manchester regularly comment on the confusing nature of our ticketing on buses and trams. They ask, very fairly, why we can’t operate an integrated system like London. It sounds self-serving when I write back to say national policy incoherence prevents it, but it is the truth.
But, having been dealt this bad hand of cards, with no real control over bus or rail, we have real pride in what Transport for Greater Manchester has been able to achieve.
The parts of the transport system that work best are the parts under local control.
These achievements show that more local control delivers results.
We now need to spread this success to all parts of our transport system.
In the Greater Manchester Strategy, we have set out our ambition to make GM the best place to grow up, get on and grow old. But none of that can be achieved unless people can get around.
Our status as a modern, forward-thinking city-region will be increasingly endangered by a transport system stuck in the past.
So enough is enough. This is what we’re going to do about it.
I will be asking the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to back plans for a major overhaul of transport.
It will involve some difficult decisions. It will take time and won’t be solved overnight. But there has to be change and I am today signalling that I will put in as many hours as it needs to achieve that.
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