It’s Up the Poll! 2017: GM Mayoral Candidates on Transport Policy

Where Greater Manchester’s mayoral candidates stand on the city region’s transport issues

Dennis Dart SLF, WA56 OAY, First Greater Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne Bus Station,
Whether Burnham, Anstee, Brophy, or Odze are elected, the victorious Mayor of Greater Manchester will be able to apply a London-style franchise model to the city region’s bus routes.

Transport is an emotive issue in Greater Manchester. From the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway, to the Metrolink’s Second City Crossing, it is intertwined in the city’s fabric. For some, it is the story of failed hopes; ping pong between local and central government; and mothballed road projects. There’s more than enough to fill a separate blog post on the aforementioned subject. With the Mayoral Election a week away, we get to decide who’s going to lay their hands on the train set (among other things).

For some people, the state of public transport is epitomised by overcrowded trains, missing buses, or being stuck at Cornbrook Junction on the tram. In the last three decades, the cost of bus fares – especially whilst compared with off peak train fares – has been a thorn in the side of many passengers. In some cases, a shared taxi between four adults is cheaper than the equivalent journey by bus.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester will be answerable to Transport for Greater Manchester, the executive body charged with integrating the conurbation’s buses, trains, and trams. He or she will be responsible for a Local Transport Plan. This would include powers to franchise all of its bus services. Also the implementation and consolidation of the GetMeThere smart cards. He or she will have the ability to handle Greater Manchester’s £300m funding from central government, over a 30-year period. This would be augmented by a further settlement for 2020 and beyond (which supersedes a funding package for 2014 – 2019).

Franchising

At this time of writing, the Bus Services Bill has just been granted Royal Assent, becoming The Bus Services Act 2017. In a nutshell, the Office of the Mayor of Greater Manchester and TfGM, will be able to take control of the city region’s bus services. Franchisees have to agree to certain conditions, to run a given number of bus routes (a bit like today’s tendered services). It aims to level the playing field between bus deserts (see also Mossley and Saddleworth after 7pm) and trunk routes. Also wasteful competition between routes where buses are plentiful.

As with the London model, this would mean a standardised livery. The operator’s logo would coexist with the TfGM logo, as is the case with the Vantage V1 and V2. Ticketing would be more integrated, perhaps with no financial penalty for switching modes of transport. Any changes will be subject to public consultation.

Though franchised buses are top of the agenda, there is a host of other transport policies that Greater Manchester’s mayoral candidates have considered.

Andy Burnham, Labour:

To unblock the city region’s roads, there will be a new plan to tackle congestion, assessing the condition and configuration of the city region’s trunk routes. If elected, new powers will be used to make our buses more affordable. This includes free travel for college students aged 16 to 18 years old.

Accessibility is also another key to his policies, with audio and visual announcements on all buses. Metrolink profits will be redistributed towards the network’s expansion. There will also be a plan to modernise Greater Manchester’s railway stations, by making them more accessible. Cyclists will benefit from a bike-hire scheme and a pro-cyclist approach to the use of road space.

Will Patterson, The Green Party of England and Wales:

Getting Greater Manchester moving is the key to Will’s policies. He proposes a back to basics approach based on greater re-regulation and integration, focusing on high quality before high speed. In other words, more simplified bus fares, improved local bus journeys, and the end of Greater Manchester evening peak fares on local train services.

His most ambitious pledge is the expansion of the Metrolink network with an Outer Circle, and the use of tram-train services in some areas. Car Clubs which encourage car sharing, and staggered working hours are also supported by the candidate.

Sean Anstee, Conservative Party:

Sean also agrees with the extension of GetMeThere becoming a smart ticketing scheme, and of course, the franchising model of the Bus Services Act 2017. Should he be elected, his first three years as Mayor of Greater Manchester would see the retention of existing concessionary travel schemes. He also proposes the extension of Smart Motorways across the whole of the M60 and the establishment of a single investment fund for transport schemes.

Like Andy Burnham, he too would like to see more trams in Greater Manchester. Safer junctions, smarter bus stops, and a study into Hyperloop technologies are among his proposals. For Manchester Airport, he would continue to lobby government to suspend Air Passenger Duty on new routes for two years.

Shneur Odze, United Kingdom Independence Party:

Shneur Odze favours the introduction of an Oyster style card (which in other words is the next step for GetMeThere). He pledges to oppose the arrival of HS2 and is ardently against congestion charging. Other anti-car measures will be given short shrift. Instead, he says the money for HS2 should be redistributed towards local and regional transport projects.

Mohammed Aslam, Independent:

Mohammed’s key transport plan is the introduction of free bus, train, and tram fares for school and college students over term time. He aims to improve the city region’s transport network and its roads.

Marcus Farmer, Independent:

The second independent mayoral candidate, Marcus Farmer, would like to see buses and trams free at the point of use.

Jane Brophy, Liberal Democrats:

As well as wanting to make Greater Manchester the cycling capital of the UK, Jane favours the expansion of the Metrolink network. She would like to see trams in all ten of Greater Manchester’s boroughs and more double-length trams at peak times. In addition to serving all ten boroughs, she would like to see an orbital route.

Like Sean Anstee, she favours the introduction of smart payment methods (again, the next phase of GetMeThere). She aims to copy Sadiq Khan’s one-hour ticket scheme (which will be good for short trips across all three modes). Her aim for making Greater Manchester the UK’s home of cycling could see improved facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

Stephen Morris, English Democrats:

Being a former Unite Branch Secretary for Metrolink, it is hardly surprising to see where Stephen Morris’ heart lies. As with Shneur Odze, he too is against congestion charging. Instead, he favours the abolition of peak fares, free travel for college students aged 16 to 18, and the restoration of free bus travel before 9.30am for over 60s. Furthermore, he would like to see a four-year freeze on tram fares, and the expansion of Greater Manchester’s bus routes.

*                               *                              *

Next up on It’s Up The Poll! 2017

We shall be looking at the environmental policies of Greater Manchester Mayoral Election candidates. Stay tuned for further announcements.

S.V., 27 April 2017.

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