Earlier this week Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham announced his plan to radically overhaul the current transport network in the city and replace it with a scheme called Our Network.
The 10-year plan aims to create a “world-class” integrated public transport system in Manchester that would replicate the London model and hopefully allow people to seamlessly change between bus, train and tram travel.
The plan would allow the city to take back control of its bus routes from private companies, whilst emphasising the need for sustainable transport, including an expansion of the Metrolink system and improving cycling routes.
Encouragingly, there would be a price cap on travelling in and around the city-centre in a single day.
Why is Our Network needed?
The widespread public discontent with the current system was shown earlier this year in a poll of more than 1000 people by ‘Better Buses Greater Manchester’ which revealed that 76% of residents supported re-regulation of buses.
The same study also showed that 77% of those questioned believed fare increases on Stagecoach and First Buses in January 2019 were not justified.
In the years since Margaret Thatcher deregulated Manchester’s public transport network, the city has been plagued by an inefficient and expensive system.
Due to the fact that the trains, trams and buses are controlled by different companies, it is often hard to work out the cheapest and quickest way of travelling around the city.
— TfGM (@OfficialTfGM) June 25, 2019
According to the Guardian, it is cheaper to travel the same distance on a bus in London than it is in Manchester.
A failing local train service has also compounded the problem following much-maligned Northern Rail timetable changes.
A Watchdog survey of 25,000 rail passengers earlier this year showed that public satisfaction with the service is at its lowest for 10 years.
What has the reaction been like?
Despite the plans being in-line with public feeling, unsurprisingly they have not been received well by Stagecoach, one of Greater Manchester’s largest bus operators.
Shortly after Burnham’s announcement, the company released a strongly-worded statement lambasting Our Network.
“The Mayor has provided no evidence to support his claim that franchising is better than a partnership approach and he is keeping Greater Manchester’s taxpayers in the dark about the massive bill they would have to pay for a London-style bus system.
“Stagecoach has delivered £90m investment in greener buses for Manchester since 2010 […] with nine in 10 customers satisfied with their bus service.”
However, environmental charities in the area have been vocal in their support for the scheme.
Manchester Friends of the Earth spokesman Pete Abel said: “Manchester Friends of the Earth wants to see a […] transport system based around people and increased walking and cycling.
“We welcome the steps outlined by Andy Burnham […] The UK government must provide the funding to enable Greater Manchester and other UK cities to follow the lead of over 100 cities and towns across the world who are reducing air pollution and meeting the challenge of climate change […] It will be necessary to regulate buses to make this work.”
Despite the mixed reaction to Our Network, it can’t be denied that Manchester is taking steps to a greener and more efficient future.
Image courtesy of TfGM via Twitter, with thanks.