Concessions, Congestion Charging and ConDems
Ever one for backing a lost cause, I was in favour of the Transport Innovation Fund proposals. This was not borne out of hatred for petrolheads (the Congestion Charging element), but a yearning for a world class transport network (or the semblance of one). One which has been constantly denied to Mancunians since the aborted Picc-Vic Project.
Slowly but surely, Top Gear Tim and his petrolhead mates consigned GMPTE’s proposals to the dustbin (Was it the green one? No, I think it was the blue one, maybe the black one, or the one with pink and yellow dots on).
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The Transport Innovation Fund referendum: an expensive way of saying ‘no’
History would judge 2008 as the year when Greater Manchester turned down a state-of-the-art public transport network. One which would see improvements to bus and rail services, and the completion of the Metrolink’s Big Bang project. One where the stick of a peak-hour congestion charge would be offset by a juicy carrot of frequent trams, less crowded trains and reliable buses.
Congestion charging would have been implemented on completion of an improved transport network. Its outer zone would have been inside the M60 motorway, concentrating on traffic flows to and from Manchester city centre. An inner zone would cover the area around Manchester city centre. Charging would have applied to vehicles entering Manchester in the morning and vehicles leaving the centre during the evening peaks. Dukinfield based motorists travelling to Manchester would have had to pay twice in the peaks entering the central zone and the outer zone.
The campaign for the TIF proposals was spearheaded by the then chief of GMPTA, Roger Jones, the local Friends of the Earth groups and cyclists’ groups. Support was far from unanimous among local Labour Party and Green Party followers, with both parties split between the ayes and noes. It was also backed by all but two of the ten borough councils which make up the Greater Manchester area. Liberal Democrat controllled Stockport and Conservative controlled Trafford councils were fervently against the proposals. Most of which in their eyes would have clobbered the residents of these boroughs due to higher than average car ownership. Shortly after the motion was passed at Dukinfield Town Hall in July 2007, Bury Council withdrew their support for the congestion charge.
Fervently against the proposals were the Conservative Party, UKIP, the BNP and – most vociferously – Trafford Council leader Susan Williams, a Conservative councilllor and future candidate for the Stretford and Urmston seat in 2010’s General Election. Manchester Blackley Labour MP Graham Stringer was against the proposals. Whereas the environmentalists endorsed the proposals, its detractors had greater influences. These came in the form of Kellogg’s (who claimed employees at Trafford Park wouldn’t afford to work due to the extra £5.00 per day for passing the M60). Then Peel Holdings, synonymous with The Trafford Centre, the Manchester Ship Canal and the MediaCityUK development. Housing Units of Failsworth were vociferously against congestion charging, and placed full page adverts in the Manchester Evening News and Oldham Evening Chronicle. With the anti-TIF backers in private enterprise having a bigger budget than the pro-TIF camp, defeat loomed large for the latter.
The local car lobby was equally scathing: Manchester Against Road Tolls was formed to fight the proposals. In Tameside, the strength of support for MART spawned a separate group. It even made The Sun, by means of Jeremy Clarkson’s motoring column and one episode of Top Gear. Due to continued lobbying, a referendum was granted.
On the 11 December, the anti-TIF lobby won by a great margin. On a 53.2% turnout using postal votes, residents in all 10 boroughs voted ‘no’; 78.8% against and 21.2% in favour of the Transport Innovation Fund proposals. After being promised a state of the art transport system, Top Gear Tim and his friends voted for the status quo of traffic jams and a less effective Metrolink system.
Irlam: birthplace of the first ConDem coup?
In the local elections, opposition to the Transport Innovation Fund proposals in Irlam saw a vicious campaign against GMPTA leader and Labour councillor Roger Jones. As a result of dirty tricks campaigning, he came third to the Community Action Party councillor and lost his role head of GMPTA.
For the first time since 1981, GMPTE/GMPTA was led by a non-Labour councillor. Taking the helm was Matthew Colledge, Conservative Party councillor and leader of Trafford MBC (having succeeded Susan Williams). His right-hand man, in a joint capacity was Keith Whitmore, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Levenshulme – and self-proclaimed transport enthusiast. Among their first plans were the introduction of town centre shuttle buses and new orbital routes.
How TIF would have affected Dukinfield:
Under the plans, Dukinfield would have seen tangible improvements to her bus network. The 218 route would have been replaced by a limited stop version of the 220 from Stalybridge to Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens]. Known as the X20, it would have offered a limited stop service every 20 minutes.
The 343 would operate as normal between Hyde, Dukinfield, Mossley and Oldham. This would have been boosted with a half hourly service from Oldham to Stalybridge with one journey per hour continuing to Ashton-under-Lyne. The 346 would have operated to a daytime frequency of every 10 minutes, with its pre-deregulation evening frequency [of every half hour] restored.
The Metrolink extension would have offered another route to Manchester via a more frequent 346 up to Ashton. It would have been an antidote to the packed trains or slower buses.
As history would later prove, the next five years would see Metrolink construction commencing in Droylsden and Ashton.
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In Other News…
Amid the excitement and furore of the TIF proposals, fares still went up, services continued to see revisions, retimings and withdrawals.
The fag end of January saw the end of the 220’s Sunday evening service. With passenger numbers recorded as being in single figures, Dukinfield passengers were forced to catch a 216 or 219 before boarding another bus from Ashton. Vale of Manchester, who operated a peak hour journey on the 220, would withdraw from the route in March. Another major change (in January) was the withdrawal of the 419 route between Ashton and Stalybridge. Dukinfield’s direct link with Chadderton and Middleton was even shorter lived than its previous link between the two towns (on the 401 route). There was no replacement, with frequencies between Stalybridge and the Albion Hotel halved in the last three months.
The last two months saw rumours of the 343’s demise resurface. SpeedwellBus took over the daytime route from First Manchester on a commercial basis. The route was weeks from being deregistered till GMPTE persuaded them to carry on past Christmas Eve of 2007. In the end, its weekday route became a subsidised service with SpeedwellBus winning the tender. As a consequence of Mayne’s decision to revise the Manchester to Mossley Circular (by omitting Staley Road), Speedwell’s 343 was revised to bridge that gap. Services would enter Staley Road before reaching Station Road, Winterford Road, Huddersfield Road and Micklehurst Road, before joining Egmont Street.
Some short journeys of the 389, between Ashton and Stalybridge were absorbed by the new 387 route. Additionally, this would take in Godley (via Sheffield Road), covering much of Speedwell’s former 238 route.
The end of January also saw the end of an era for one of Greater Manchester’s oldest independent operators. A. Mayne and Son sold its stage carriage operations to Stagecoach Manchester. February would see its former bus operations controlled by (for a brief period) GM Buses East, a company created by Stagecoach Manchester to oversee the Mayne routes. A. Mayne and Son sold the Ashton New Road garage with its Manchester coach operations ran from their nearby Fairclough Street garage. The head office was transferred to Warrington, hitherto the home base of Barry Cooper Coaches, a 1980s acquisition.
In less auspicious circumstances, Vale of Manchester left the Greater Manchester bus scene. Two months after axing their peak hour 220 journey, they went into liquidation in May. This also affected two peak hour journeys on the 345 (Ashton to Denton [Pendle Road] route). First Pioneer operated them under an emergency tender, before Checkmate Coaches took over in September.
Easter also saw a rationalisation of evening services in the Saddleworth area. The evening service of the 353 and 354 continued to Diggle, Dobcross, Delph and Oldham at irregular intervals. With Dobcross, Delph, Scouthead and Oldham covered by the 350, the 353 and 354 services were curtailed to run between Uppermill and Ashton. The upside of which meant a full time hourly service between Ashton-under-Lyne, Stalybridge, Heyrod and Mossley, and full time two hourly services between Mossley and Grasscroft or Roaches and Greenfield. To compensate for this, the Mossley and Saddleworth LocalLink service was extended to cover Denshaw, which saw the loss of its evening 407 journeys.
October also saw the end of the 232 – 235 Manchester to Mossley Circular routes. This also affected the 217, 218 and 220 services. Manchester bound journeys of the 218 from Dukinfield were renumbered 217. This formed part of a circular route with the 217 operating in a clockwise direction, with the 218 being anti-clockwise. Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys of the 220 were replaced by part route workings of the 217 and 218. Services via Dukinfield would begin at Stalybridge with journeys via Snipe Retail Park and Ashton Moss starting from Tameside General Hospital.
Bus users, whether of the Dukinfield or Cadishead variety would be unlikely to forget 2008 in a hurry. Particularly those over 60 years of age granted free travel throughout England. From a number of piecemeal local concessionary fare systems, the 2007 Concessionary Bus Travel Act was effective from April of this year. In Greater Manchester, aged persons would pay at peak times the standard concessionary fare, whereas outside the peaks, including weekends and Bank Holidays, free travel is available. Three years on, the popularity and negative effect on bus patronage would see far reaching changes to the concessionary fares system.
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My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 2008:
One away from the GMPTE boundary and one within the boundary.
- Manchester [Chorlton Street] to Burnley – a brisk ride on the X43 Witch Way bus to the Lancashire town. Made all the more memorable by forthcoming events after seeing Donna Williams’ Burnley talk (which led to a lift to Aintree – for her second one – then home, with Donna, her husband Chris, and I singing on the M62);
- Ashton to Manchester on a 216 – shortly after the announcement of the TIF referendum results, a terraced house on Audenshaw sported a dayglo orange poster reading ‘Hooray! No Metrolink!’.
Part Twenty Four follows tomorrow.
S.V., 23 October 2011.