Skip to content

Mayor sets out major transport overhaul

13/12/2017

A major overhaul of transport, beginning in 2018, has been announced by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham in a keynote speech today (Wednesday, December 13).

The Mayor addressed the Urban Transport Group in Leeds this morning, 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;

Speech by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

A 21st Century Transport System for Greater Manchester

Urban Transport Group Conference Leeds

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. This explains why:

  • Many of our rail stations - not under our management - are cold, damp, dreary and dark – with more than half of them inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. In 2017, that is simply unacceptable.
  • Promised improvements – be it Smart Motorways or Trans-Pennine electrification – keep getting delayed or cancelled.
  • Bus routes are cancelled with minimal notice – leaving communities stranded.

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.

  • Metrolink is the largest light rail network in the UK – catering for more than 40 million passenger journeys a year with fully-accessible Metrolink stops and trams powered by green energy
  • The pioneering Leigh Guided Busway – environmentally-friendly hybrid buses - proving more popular than anyone predicted – with now 62,000 journeys a week

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.

  1. GOVERNANCE

We start with governance and the need to bring some order to the chaos.

We cannot continue to operate a transport system where different modes of transport are pulling in different directions, competing for the same passengers, and lacking accountability.

So this morning I have written to the Transport Secretary to notify him of our intention to establish a Greater Manchester Strategic Transport Board, and ask him to work constructively with us to ensure that all national bodies are represented at a decision-making level.

The board, which I will chair together with Sir Richard Leese, will hold the whole system to account for the GM public by monitoring performance, progress on improvements and ensure joined-up working between the different players.

It will also ensure that our 10 councils – key partners in transport delivery – are fully knitted in to decision-making.

We will also look to strengthen our own local arrangements and management of operations.

I have asked TfGM to assess the costs and benefits of moving to a 24/7 control room – similar to the model used by Transport for London.

This is essential for any city with ambitions like ours. It will allow us to be more proactive in preventing problems on our network and more responsive when problems do happen.

These changes will bring more coherence and allow us to drive through some big changes to all modes of transport.

  1. BUSES

The biggest changes of all will be to our bus system.

Today I am calling time on the failed, free market experiment foisted onto the Greater Manchester public by the Thatcher Government.

Despite a decline in bus patronage over many years, buses still carry three quarters of all public transport passengers in Greater Manchester.

Buses are the backbone of the public transport system – so it is right to start here.

The decline in bus usage has come despite an increasing population, investment in bus lanes and infrastructure, and extensive support by TfGM and Districts in various partnership initiatives with local bus operators. 

The reasons for this are inevitably complex but it cannot help that in Greater Manchester we have over 40 different bus operators, with 160 different types of ticket available.

We have too many communities in Greater Manchester receiving no service at all – or having their service taken away with minimal notice.

Fares are simply too high - a single journey can cost £3 or more – compared to £1.50 in London.

In some cases it is cheaper to travel by taxi or to drive into the city centre and pay for parking. As one of the responses to the Congestion Conversation said: “Sort out the extortionate bus fares. If I go to the city centre it’s cheaper to park than for a family for four to use public transport.”

Buses still lack audio/visual announcements – making it difficult for people who don’t regularly use a particular service to know when to get off – but making it near impossible for people with sight or hearing problems.

Wheelchair users talk of being left at bus stops as several services go past because they don’t have the right ramps.

And ticketing is stuck in the past.

Just last week I saw a tweet from someone called Jamie. He said: “It’s freezing outside, and two people so far have been denied entry to this bus because the driver doesn’t have enough change.’

How can this be happening in 2017? When you can pay for your lunch using your phone. Or buy a cup of coffee using your watch.  And sometimes you still can’t catch a bus unless you have the right coins.

Unless we bring our bus services into the 21st century, our plans in Greater Manchester for a better public transport system cannot be fulfilled. 

Today I can confirm that in Greater Manchester we will be using the powers granted to us by Parliament at the earliest opportunity to drive through some major improvements to our bus services – and we are starting straight away.

Regulations to allow requests for further data from operators come into effect next Tuesday, the 19th of December.

Today we give notice that, on the 20th of December, TfGM will be writing to operators to request that data.

Subject to TfGM receiving the information it needs, I expect public consultation on our plans for bus reform to be announced in the summer, with the aim of making a decision by the end of the 2018.

This could see improvements being delivered to bus services in GM sooner than in any other city-region with equivalent powers.

This will be a major focus for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and TfGM in 2018. The work will proceed at pace and all options for change evaluated openly and fairly.

It means work will start on shaping a bus system that people find convenient to use, that is accessible to all, that can help reduce congestion and improve air quality, that better links with other modes, and that gives our people the joined up connectivity that our economy and society need.

There will be some basic standards we expect from a reformed bus system in line with the objectives set out in the Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040:

  • More affordable and simplified fares, integrated with Metrolink, with contactless payment and a daily cap
  • Comprehensive coverage across Greater Manchester – with all communities able to expect a decent service
  • More accessible and modern vehicles – with ramps, space for wheelchairs & prams; AV announcements as standard and real time information available either at bus stops or through apps
  • Fair to bus drivers and other staff, the vast majority of whom do a great job, in terms of their employment, training and job security
  • Cleaner and greener vehicles, with greater use of low-carbon technology
  • And a single brand and livery – to strengthen legibility as ‘one network’ and provide clarity and coherence

Crucially we will need to use this opportunity to build a new market for buses.

In the last 30 years, too many young people in Greater Manchester have grown up not using buses.

We have to turn this declining market around.

It remains my aim that any operator providing bus services in Greater Manchester offers free bus travel for 16-18 year olds, building on the half-price tickets we introduced earlier this year.

To be clear, I am keeping an open mind on the different options of improving bus services.

But they are going to improve and it is going to happen as quickly as practically possible.

And my message to all bus operators is this: start engaging with us positively on how we deliver our new vision rather than clinging on to an era which is going.

I want a solution that’s good for passengers, good for the workforce, good for operators and good for Greater Manchester. 

If we work together, that’s exactly what we can achieve.

  1. METROLINK

One of the big wins to be gained from bus reform is to integrate services with Metrolink and effectively operate as one system.

There is much to be proud of with Metrolink…

  • Patronage has doubled in the last six years with over 40 million passengers using the network in the last year.
  • Passenger satisfaction remains relatively high
  • Earlier this year we opened the new ‘Second City Crossing’ – a 1.3km stretch of track through Manchester city centre, offering greater resilience and flexibility across the tram network.
  • And I’m particularly proud that all of our Metrolink stops have step free access for wheelchair users (and boarding points and tactile paving to assist the visually impaired).

But problems still persist…

  • On three occasions in recent months there has been a complete suspension of Metrolink services, including a full suspension in rush-hour one Friday morning and on a busy Saturday evening. These incidents should be seen as ‘Never Events’ – and yet they are happening too often.
  • Ticketing is still confusing – 13 years after London launched the Oyster card – and at a time when the concept of using a smartcard to travel round London is almost archaic – we’re still playing catch-up, hamstrung by the fragmented bus fares and ticketing system that exists outside of London.
  • And partly due to the success of Metrolink - overcrowding on certain lines is still commonplace. One of the survey responses said: “I believe that roads would have less congestion if the tram service was to increase capacity making it a more reliable service during peak times.”

So what are we going to do?

  • In the short-term we are increasing capacity on two of Metrolink’s busiest lines, allowing over 1000 extra passengers to travel at peak times (on the Altrincham and Bury lines).
  • And in the longer-term we are looking at options to buy extra trams to provide that much needed additional capacity across the network.
  • Work will continue on the £350 million Metrolink Trafford Park line – a new six stop line offering connections to key business and leisure destinations. And we will continue to look at the potential for new Metrolink stops and new orbital links.
  • From January we will be introducing half-price, off-peak travel for 16-18 year olds, to align with the half-price ticket offer on buses
  • And whilst we will continue to work closely with Transport for the North to develop an integrated smart ticketing system across the north, we also want to make more immediate progress. So today I can confirm that in the second half of next year we will introduce the first phase of contactless payments on Metrolink
  • I also want to look at the case for running later trams and trains. Greater Manchester doesn’t shut down at midnight so neither should our transport system.

 

  1. RAIL

Of all the complaints I receive about our public transport it is our local rail services that I hear most about.

  • Overall passenger satisfaction with Greater Manchester facilities, seating availability, security and even just purchasing a ticket is below the national average.
  • Greater Manchester is also one of the remaining places in the country that has to put up with pacers. Trains that were designed with a maximum lifespan of 20 years still running across the North nearly 40 years later.
  • Cancellations and delays are a regular occurrence – take Northern’s North Manchester Service Group performance –
    • 8 per cent of services were short-formed
    • 5 per cent cancelled
    • Only 45 per cent arriving at the destination on time.
  • And we know the Bolton services suffer the worst of all.
  • Trains are so full that passengers are often left behind on the platform or squashed into carriages so overcrowded that it’s not unusual for people to be forced to stand in the toilets. I’ve even had reports of passengers passing out because of overcrowding.
  • Improvements are coming…
    • Ordsall Chord opened this week
    • New and refurbished trains being introduced over the next three years, phasing out the pacers
    • Line upgrades and electrification is ongoing

But, truly, these improvements can’t come quickly enough. A key role for the new GM Transport Board will be ensuring these improvements are delivered on time.

In the meantime, I am calling on operators to do more to compensate regular commuters where services have been particularly poor.

TfGM has already begun discussions with Transport Focus over fair compensation for season ticket holders on the Bolton to Manchester line, and we will be keeping a close eye on performance across a number of other lines.

And we continue to stand by our ambitious plans to improve the quality of our rail stations.

In our devolution agreement with the Government it was agreed that they would look at the case for devolved operational control of our rail stations.

We believe that local control of our GM rail stations will provide for a long-term and sustainable investment programme, involve local communities, act as a catalyst to regeneration and provide significant improvements for the customer experience.

Of the 97 stations in GM, over 80 per cent of them are more than 100 years old and many have not changed much over that period. Around half of them are classed as inaccessible for disabled people.

This statistic alone makes the case for change. 

However, the Government has rejected our bid for all stations to be devolved and a follow up proposal for a smaller group of 12 stations to be an early phase.

This is disappointing and I find it hard to accept that these plans were also resisted by rail organisations which have failed to invest in these stations over the years and forfeited the right to argue for the status quo.

The Transport Secretary has written to me to offer a partnership approach instead.  This is not our preferred option, but as ever in GM we are prepared to be pragmatic and will see if it can be made to work.

But I want to be clear with the Government today about the tests we will set to judge the success of any partnership.

Any stations model has to demonstrate that it delivers real improvements, over a clearly defined time period, to:

  • Full disability access
  • Utilisation of land for town-centre redevelopment
  • Efficient use of buildings, socially inclusive for our communities
  • Integrated, seamless transport system for our passengers
  • And improved security – be that better lighting, 24/7 surveillance or storage for cycles.

     

    For those who ask whether local control would bring improvements I point them to Metrolink which has already allowed us to deliver some state-of-the-art, modern tram stations – all of which are accessible – and the new Bolton transport interchange – delivered by TfGM – which is an exemplar of a modern, accessible, integrated facility.

  1. CONGESTION / AIR QUALITY

     

A consequence of problems on rail, road and Metrolink is that many people in Greater Manchester are left with no other choice but to drive.

This in turn clogs up our roads – particularly in the morning and evening peak.

As one of the responses to the Congestion Conversation put it: “People will continue to choose their own cars over an unreliable and expensive public transport service and congestion will only get worse.”

This is a problem not just for the poor experience of travelling around Greater Manchester but for our health – with dangerous emissions building up in areas of slow moving, stop-start traffic.

When asked what causes congestion, one of the most common responses was people starting work at the same time, poorly planned roadworks and “ill-timed traffic lights”.

Problems with strategic coordination of roads are not unique to Greater Manchester, and successful and thriving cities across the world all experience congestion on their transport networks during rush hours.

But we’ve now reached a point where 57 per cent of journeys in GM are made by private car. And 80 per cent of those car journeys are made solo. That is not sustainable.

Later this week my Expert Reference Group on congestion will meet to discuss the results of the Congestion Conversation and consider the proposals that have been put forward.

I am open to any idea – except, along with my ten Council leader colleagues, introducing a Congestion Charge.

Until we have delivered major improvements to other modes of transport, and given them a genuine alternative to the car, you cannot hit them with an unavoidable tax simply for going to work.

So alongside the wider improvements we want to make to transport, we’ll consider practicable ideas like stricter controls on road works, providing people with more real-time information and encouraging employers to adopt more flexible working arrangements to stagger the rush hour.

In the New Year we will publish our proposals - setting out exactly what we’re going to do to get our city-region moving.

Ultimately we are only going to reduce congestion over the long-term if we can encourage modal shift.

That means giving people confidence in other forms of transport and encouraging modal shift – for instance, through more parkway stations for train and tram adjacent to major roads.

And it means transforming cycling infrastructure.

 

  1. CYCLING AND WALKING

According to the Greater Manchester Travel Diary Survey, almost a third of journeys less than 1km are made by car.

That’s equivalent to a 15-min walk – or a four minute bike ride.

Enabling people to walk or cycle, particularly for these short journeys, is key to tackling congestion, improving air quality and improving people’s health.

Other cities have shown that if you build high-quality cycling infrastructure then people will use it.

Later this week Chris Boardman – the GM Cycling and Walking Commissioner – will be publishing his report on how to make Greater Manchester the best place for walking and cycling in the UK – and in doing so achieve that modal shift we need.

It will challenge us to be bolder than we have been in the past and I am determined that we meet that challenge.

When Chris launches his report on Friday, I will be setting out my intention for how we use the Transforming Cities Fund to support cycling and walking infrastructure.

So we have clear plans to improve all modes of transport and make them integrate into one system.

But these improvements won’t happen overnight.

Over the next year the public will need to bear with us, and remain patient.

2018 will involve a lot of hard work. And there is no escaping the fact that some of the work might cause disruption.

But we have got to grasp the nettle and get it done. We cannot leave things as they are.

We need to plan for a system that keeps the place moving, that people can afford to use and gives them clean air to breathe.  In short, an integrated public transport system that puts the public interest first.

It’s not much to ask, is it?