Chancellor visits new Metrolink line and unveils ground-breaking Government transport deal
The Chancellor has been riding the trams to Manchester Airport today – to mark the new line opening and unveil a landmark Government deal which will unlock new powers over transport and investment including cash for a new Metrolink line through Trafford Park.
The visit saw George Osborne spending time at a Metrolink maintenance depot to meet staff and inspect new trams before joining a driver in the cab and travelling the airport line to see the work for himself.
Chancellor George Osborne, said: “I am delighted to be able to mark the opening of the new Metrolink line to Manchester Airport over 12 months ahead of schedule. The network now covers over 92km and is a vital economic asset for Manchester.
“It is also great news that, thanks to the devolution deal I have agreed with Manchester today, there will be a further £350 million extension to Trafford which will provide significant additional benefits to the city. The Metrolink will come under the powers of the new Mayor, supporting an Oyster-style travelcard system that will make traveling on the network and all of Greater Manchester’s public transport simpler and easier.
“These are exactly the sort of transport improvements that will not only allow Manchester to prosper and thrive but also help turn our vision of a Northern Powerhouse economy into reality.”
Following his trip on the tram network, Mr Osborne unveiled a ground-breaking devolution deal at an event in the city centre which will not only deliver the new tram line through Trafford Park, but also a new London-style system of bus franchising in Greater Manchester (subject to consultation), which will ultimately provide a joined up network right across the city region, enabling seamless connections between trams, trains and buses.
This will in turn support the introduction of truly integrated multi-modal smart ticketing across all forms of public transport – currently being introduced by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) – further increasing the benefits to the travelling public who will be able to move from tram to bus without the need for multiple tickets.
The deal also unlocks access to longer-term local transport budgets and provides access to as much as £900 million over 30 years, dependent on economic performance. This will not only enable better long term planning and a more co-ordinated transport strategy but will also allow TfGM to deliver the proposed £350 million Trafford Park Metrolink line as a first priority.
It also opens the door for further discussions around the local management of Greater Manchester’s local railway stations – many of which lack accessibility for those with disabilities and real long term investment. This would breathe new life into currently under-utilised local railway stations and allow TfGM to make certain they are playing a full role in an integrated transport system.
Additionally new working arrangements will be developed between TfGM and the Highways Agency (who manage motorways around the region) guaranteeing that traffic is well managed across local roads and motorways and delays are kept to a minimum.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “Today’s historic announcement marks nothing less than a new era for commuters in Greater Manchester, one in which they can look forward to the sort of seamless travel they may have experienced in London moving from the tube to bus.
“This deal will, subject to consultation, allow us to move to a model of bus franchising, similar to the system used in London, providing us with the ability to set bus routes, frequencies and fares for the benefit of the people of Greater Manchester.
“There is sound reasoning for adopting this approach, not only will bus passengers benefit from a truly integrated network, it will also help to support the continued economic growth of the region.
“The deal also unlocks access to very substantial amounts of transport funding – providing more certainty and the ability to plan ahead. Not only that, it means that we can move ahead with the construction of the Metrolink line through Trafford Park to the Trafford Centre, a scheme which will benefit thousands of people and many businesses in the area.
“This bold and pioneering step will not only support the further development of Greater Manchester’s economy, it will also have a very real and tangible positive affect on the lives of tens of thousands of people across Greater Manchester who will be able to access jobs and education more easily.”
Following the Chancellor’s announcement Transport for Greater Manchester will be developing a detailed implementation plan with Government on behalf of the Combined Authority along with a delivery timeline and full public consultation on bus franchising will take place in due course.