AT the beginning of this month, the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham made a bid for £1 billion of Government funding for a London-style transport service.
It’s all part of the Bee Network, Greater Manchester’s planned integrated transport system.
The Bee Network will link buses, trams, cycling and walking by 2024, with rail incorporated by 2030. Even if Greater Manchester is unsuccessful for this funding, the Bee Network will go ahead, but the investment from Government would make a massive difference to the project.
To level-up Greater Manchester, we need to see better access to transport, which for too-long has been overlooked by central government.
When I go down to London for work, I can hop on a bus at a moment’s notice and take unlimited journeys within the hour for £1.55.
I can then hop on to the Tube, then on to an overground, then to the DLR and all with the same multi-use ticket (the Oyster Card). It’s all connected.
In Greater Manchester, meanwhile the price of a bus ticket can be anything between £2-£5 for a single journey.
That’s before you factor in the infrequency of buses, and the assortment of private providers that make travelling a nightmare for residents across Tameside and Greater Manchester.
The Bee Network will change all that. It would integrate travel, and finally give residents affordable and easy to use transport.
In addition to this, Transport for Greater Manchester will bring in a new fleet of buses to a standard model, with half of them immediately electric and the rest to follow. This will help Greater Manchester reach its target of ‘net zero’ by 2038.
This stuff really matters. For me, levelling-up means equality, and it means making sure that those living and travelling in Tameside have the same opportunities as those living in London.
Levelling-up will remain a slogan until we can all travel around our communities in an affordable, accessible, and environmentally friendly way.
If the Government provides this funding, it will help alleviate some of the pressure that have been placed on Tameside’s transport infrastructure after 11 years of Government cuts.
We’ve had enough of fragmented bus services and high prices.
It’s all well and good singing the virtues of public transport, but if the infrastructure isn’t there, relying on it becomes an impossibility.
I hope the Government realises this sooner rather than later, and gives Greater Manchester and the people of Tameside the support they need to truly level-up.