Greater Manchester wants control of its transport

Monday, 3rd December 2018

Guest blog by Chris Peacock, Head of Grayling Manchester

When the railway timetable chaos hit over the summer, the transport system in the North was given national front page attention.  However, for those of us living with it every day, the chaos was just another day of poor services with dilapidated and overcrowded trains.

Andy Burnham’s monthly phone-in and ‘Question Time’ events across Greater Manchester are dominated by complaints about transport.  His twitter feed has become the place to collate the complaints of Greater Mancunians and their travel woes either getting to or going home from work every day.  The growth of anger in Greater Manchester has led to the Mayor launching his own campaign to give the Combined Authority the power and funding it needs to take control of the city region’s transport system.

The ‘Take Control of our Transport’ campaign has ten demands:

  1. £3 billion funding for transport infrastructure spending
  2. The power for Greater Manchester to coordinate roadworks
  3. Powers to enforce traffic offences and yellow box junctions
  4. Regulatory powers over private hire taxis and to stop licenses granted outside of Greater Manchester from being used to work in the city region
  5. Greater power to Transport for the North to oversee and manage train operators on behalf of passengers
  6. New railway stations at Piccadilly and Manchester Airport to realise the benefits of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, and upgrades at Wigan and Stockport to enable HS2
  7. Give ownership of the regions railway stations to Greater Manchester to allow for more timely and effective improvements
  8. A local scrappage scheme to provide financial support for the switch to cleaner vehicles to tackle poor air quality, and financial support for buses to be upgraded
  9. Make Highways England legally required to assess and tackle the air quality issues on the strategic highways network and related sections of the local highways network
  10. A major expansion of our rapid transit network, including by making much better use of our extensive network of existing rail lines.

So not much then.

The limited power of the Mayor and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority over transport has prompted the need for this campaign.  The devolution deal did give some powers to the Mayor, but they were tied to the potential for bus re-regulation and funding to make some transport improvements.  Nothing of the scale that is needed to make the much-needed fundamental changes.  Now the theory of devolved powers has been put into practice over transport, they are too restricted and finite.

Next year, Andy Burnham will be entering his long campaign for his re-election as Mayor, for the election that will take place in May 2020.  As Mayor, he has been frustrated at the lack of power the role has to get things done.  On homelessness, rough sleeping and transport, good strides have been made to improve things, but few would say that, during his short tenure as Mayor, he has made Greater Manchester into the best place to live, work and study as he said in his first manifesto.

His transport campaign will be, I suspect, the first of many demonstrations that he, and the Combined Authority, have the ambition and plans to make Greater Manchester ‘great’ but are curtailed by the lack of power they have been given by central government.  Will the election for the Mayor in 2020 be about what power they should have?  Will the public care, especially if their trains are still late, cancelled or too crowded to get on?

The Grayling Manchester office is providing clients with political updates and strategies on how to engage with the Mayor, the local authorities across the north and with Westminster politics.

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If you would like to ask Transport for the North CEO, Barry White any burning questions, he’ll be doing a Q&A at our upcoming Transport & Infrastructure Lunch. Enjoy 10% off using code ‘SOCIAL10’