Andy Burnham has announced a series of changes across Greater Manchester to ease congestion, but has admitted he doesn’t have the powers to make any meaningful impact on transport unless the Government gives him more control.
With roadworks and increased traffic leaving Manchester city centre in deadlock this week, plus continuing problems with the Northern and TransPennine rail services, Burnham described the City Region’s transport situation as “outdated, fragmented and unaccountable”, and said that Greater Manchester did not “have the power to get to grips” with its transport challenges unless it was given similar day-to-day controls as London.
However, despite repeated attempts, transport secretary Chris Grayling has ignored Burnham’s requests throughout the year for an urgent meeting. Burnham stressed though that “this is not a personality clash or a party political issue. I’m ready to meet him at any time.”
Today the Mayor launched the ‘Take control of our Transport’ campaign, and is asking the people of Greater Manchester to get behind him so he can pressure the Government to grant the City Region additional powers, such as oversight over Highways England for the road network, full oversight over rail franchises, ability to regulate taxi drivers, and the reforms included in the Bus Services Act. All this should be underpinned by the major investment suggested by the National Infrastructure Commission, Burnham said.
He described the various transport systems as “impossible to integrate” and said that he had been “frankly shocked by the lack of response and accountability from the rail and bus industries.”
He admitted that before running for Mayor he had thought he would be able to do more, but said “nothing quite prepares you for sitting where I sit… I don’t have hold of the levers I need to change these things.”
Burnham said that on Monday, only 34% of TransPennine rail services ran on time, while Northern was around 70%. Both are still at a level below Govia Thameslink, which has received a clear ultimatum from Grayling. Burnham has asked him to show “the same decisive approach in the North”.
In terms of the recent peak in congestion issues, Burnham said everyone involved, including Greater Manchester, needed to “up their game”.
The following changes are due to implemented “imminently”:
- TfGM will launch a digital service updating sat-navs and other navigation services in real time, 24/7
- An early bird Metrolink offer will be introduced by December to encourage more people to use the trams before peak time
- Two additional hourly buses will be added to the guided busway at peak times
- Review into increasing capacity for parking at Metrolink stops to encourage ‘park-and-ride
- Review into changing working hours on non-essential roadworks
- A weekly congestion meeting to monitor issues and suggest changes