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Manchester's masterplan with Transport for Greater Manchester

Source: RTM Feb/March 2019

Simon Warburton, transport strategy director at Transport for Greater Manchester, outlines the region’s ambitious vision for the future.

First things first – the good news: Greater Manchester is a success. Over the past 20 years, we have transformed this city-region into a confident, ambitious, and outward-looking conurbation where more and more people and businesses want to live and invest.

But this growth brings its own challenges, which is why Greater Manchester’s leaders set out their strategic vision for the city-region so that we can maximise the potential of this growth, protect ourselves from possible risks, and ensure everyone across Greater Manchester can embrace the benefits.

The central element was Greater Manchester’s Plan for Jobs, Homes, and the Environment (formerly the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework), which provides a cohesive and bold vision that will enable our city-region to sustainably deliver future housing and employment growth. It includes plans to deliver 50,000 additional homes whilst minimising the loss of our green belt. Alongside this, the leaders also set out their Industrial Strategy, how they intend to revitalise town centres, and how we are planning to tackle air pollution – which is one of the largest health risks affecting our city-region.

We also launched our Greater Manchester Delivery Plan 2020-2025. It sets out all the transport projects and improvements that we will be delivering in the next five years and has been developed closely alongside the Plan for Jobs, Homes, and the Environment to ensure transport and growth align and support each other.

It is clear that a strong public transport network – and an increase in walking and cycling – will be essential for Greater Manchester’s continued growth and success. The bottom line is that our city-region cannot support an increase in car traffic. More cars means more congestion, more pollution and more accidents – and we simply do not have enough physical space. That is why by 2040 we want 50% of all journeys in Greater Manchester to be made by walking, cycling, and public transport. This would mean that in 20 years, even though our population will have increased, we will be making fewer car journeys than we are today.

The projects set out in the GM Delivery Plan are designed to support this aim and include schemes that we are committed to delivering, those we are currently making the business case for, and those whose potential we are currently exploring.

We already have exciting projects secured for delivery, including the £350m Metrolink Trafford Park Line, the purchase of 27 new trams, £160m new walking and cycling infrastructure across all 10 districts, expanding the city-region’s electric vehicle charging network, and new interchanges in Tameside and Stockport.

But to deliver our long-term ambitions for a world-class public transport system, we need to plan ahead even further, building on these improvements to create an accessible, innovative, and unified network. That is why we are already looking at future projects, including tram-train pathfinder projects, which would enable Metrolink trams to operate via heavy rail infrastructure; new guided busways; the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly and airport stations to accommodate HS2; and the potential of a city centre tunnel.

These are aspirational plans, but this bold vision is essential for ensuring Greater Manchester can reach its full economic, social, and environmental potential. We have calculated that all these improvements would cost around £3bn to 2025, which is not out of line with the National Infrastructure Commission’s recent recommendations on the scale of funds needed for large city-region transport. We will be working closely with central government to secure this through the current Spending Review, while also working closely with other organisations such as Network Rail, Transport for the North, and Highways England to ensure their projects benefit Greater Manchester.

It’s also clear that we need the tools to do the job. This means being granted the levers and powers we need to enable bus reform and having greater control over our highways and railways. It will be impossible to create an integrated transport network if we cannot make the separate elements work together in an intelligent and cohesive manner – and we will be working with government to follow through on the promise of devolution and enable us to make the right decisions for the people of Greater Manchester.

Our record speaks for itself: we published our Progress Report for February 2017 – October 2018, which details what we’ve delivered over the last 18 months. It includes the completion of the Cross City Bus Priority Package, improving bus journeys across the city-region; new cycling infrastructure on Oxford and Wilmslow Road; a new interchange at Bolton; and a bus station in Wigan.

Transport affects everyone’s daily lives – whether that’s travelling across the city-region or just walking to the local shop. If we can get our public transport right, it will have an immense impact on many of the biggest issues facing our city-region, including congestion, air pollution, our residents’ health, and the vitality of our city-centres. A strong public transport network, with support for walking and cycling, will ensure Greater Manchester remains a dynamic and attractive place to live and work far into the twenty first century.


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