With the Greater Manchester mayoral campaign now well under way, it’s clear that transport will be one of the key issues for many residents, as revealed in Manchester Evening News’ survey. Here, Professor Graham Winch lays out why improving transport should be a priority for the new mayor and suggests some of the future challenges and opportunities.
- It is unclear why phase 2a and the Manchester leg of phase 2b of HS2 cannot be built simultaneously , providing a full London to Manchester high speed service as early as 2027
- We need to guard against further delays on the Leeds/Manchester phase caused by overspending on programmes in the south of England
- Investments in HS2 and HS3 will help generate accelerated economic growth for the region with Manchester at its effective heart
- In the future we might see congestion charging in central Manchester within the Inner Ring road with enhanced charges or even bans for the more polluting vehicles
- Although these projects are not in the devolution deal, the mayor should lobby and campaign central government to redress the bias in investment appraisals towards following rather than stimulating economic growth
Manchester is a global city in a number of senses. The industrial revolution in which it played such an important part transformed our world, and the international trade in cotton goods (imports and exports) was an early example of globalised supply chains. Presently, Manchester has global name recognition thanks to its football and its music. And if Manchester is to achieve its aspirations, it needs to be a truly global city in its connectivity to the outside world. Turning our backs on our global potential would not help the “left behinds” of our poorer quarters.
In this global aspiration the airport plays a central role. Communally owned by the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester and external partners, the airport has been, and will continue to be, the key to Manchester’s potential. The 10 year Transformation Programme that is currently gathering momentum is a vital investment, supported by the World Logistics Hub and Airport City developments.
The key to airline route growth from Manchester is passenger numbers, so the regional connectivity of the airport is also vital. The next battle is to ensure that the Crewe/Manchester leg of HS2 with its station at the airport follows on from phase 2a as smoothly as possible. Indeed, it is not clear why phase 2a from Birmingham to Crewe and the Manchester leg of phase 2b cannot be built simultaneously thereby providing a full London to Manchester (and airport) high speed service as early as 2027.
Network Rail’s Great North Rail Project to enable green travel to the airport from across the North is enormously important, but we need to guard against further delays on the Leeds/Manchester phase caused by overspending on programmes in the south of England. The next level of upgrade of capacity is the proposed HS3 and considerable political energy will need to be expended to ensure that plans for Crossrail 2 do not starve it of investment funds; the latter is already in Network Rail’s planning portfolio. These investments will also greatly enhance the agglomeration effects that are so important to generating accelerated economic growth for the region with Manchester at its effective heart.
Roads will still be important for movement around the region, and not just to the airport. Important enhancements are already taking place but major investment is needed in the tunnelled road from Sheffield to Manchester and work on appraising the North West quadrant options to ease congestion on the M60 where it is also the M62 needs to move more quickly. A greater challenge for the future will be to look at the options for congestion charging in central Manchester within the Inner Ring road with enhanced charges or even bans for the more polluting vehicles.
The challenge for the incoming mayor is that seizing these opportunities is not within the devolution arrangements as such. But, building on the example of successive mayors of Greater London, there is much to be done in campaigning and lobbying in order to make Greater Manchester’s voice heard in Whitehall, and to address the bias in present investment appraisal methods towards following economic growth rather than stimulating that growth.