The Government must help realise a new vision for Greater Manchester’s transport system

YESTERDAY I led an Adjournment Debate in Parliament calling for a renewed vision for Greater Manchester’s public transport system. I called on the Government to support the work of Transport for Greater Manchester, local councils and the Mayor Andy Burnham by giving the city region the resource to, in particular, extend the current Metrolink system.

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Jesse Norman MP, Parliamentary Undersecretary for Transport, responded. He highlighted the success and importance of the Metrolink stystem in improving connectivity across the City region, but stopped short of promising any new resource for improvements.

If the Government is serious about creating a Northern Powerhouse it is important that we have a truly balanced economy. But if transport in our Northern cities is skewed towards some areas, while others remain poorly connected, then the full potential of this Powerhouse will never be realised.

As things stand, we have a few parts of Manchester that are very well connected. Yet large swathes of the City region – notably in the North and East as well as places like Leigh – are poorly serviced by bus, tram and rail.

Getting across the City region is a pertinent example. It will take less time to get from Manchester to London on HS2 than it will to get from parts of Oldham to Trafford Park – one of best areas in Europe of quality engineering jobs. It takes 30 minutes by car.

The beating heart of the Northern Powerhouse is its people. If people can’t realise their potential – whether that be through quality employment or education – because poor transport links are leaving them with too few options, then we need to see proper investment to change this situation. You can’t simply talk about a Northern Powerhouse, but not put your hand in your pocket when the time is right to do so.

The Mayor of Manchester is doing sterling work to champion this issue, but if the Government aren’t coughing up the resource to keep developing transport such as metro link, then his hands will remain tied.

As important as the connections in and out of Manchester city centre are, so too are the orbital links connecting the boroughs around Greater Manchester, beyond the city of Manchester. We should be ambitious; we need to create a transport vision that will guide us for decades. It is important that we now take on that responsibility for the next generation, and plan that far ahead.

In 2017, the 2040 Transport Strategy for Greater Manchester was published, approved by the GMCA and all ten constituent local authorities. The Strategy highlights the priority interventions needed to achieve Greater Manchester’s ambitions for a radical new approach to planning our transport system, in support of long-term needs and aspirations of Greater Manchester. The Strategy builds on the Transport Vision 2040 which was consulted upon in 2015.

Our City region is changing. The population will have exceeded 3 million by the late 2030’s. By 2035, there will be at least 200,000 new jobs created across Greater Manchester, with 600,000 additional daily trips on our transport network.

The Government must therefore understand that a new vision for transport crucial to the success of the Northern Powerhouse. It’s about helping to shape and create a successful, resilient city-region, ready to tackle the challenges, and opportunities of the 21st century.

That can happen only if the Government come to the table, offer real investment and work with Greater Manchester to make sure that transport in the future is far better than it is today.

At yesterday’s debate I also took the opportunity to pay tribute to Manchester councillor Andrew Fender, who retires in May. His vision and tenacity for improving transport across Greater Manchester has rightly earnt him the nickname ‘Mr Metrolink’.

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