As a (near-)Brummie, I can vouch there there has always been a rivalry with Manchester and Birmingham, vying for the position of England’s second city. Well, I think Manchester may well have clinched it yesterday by bagging £1.5bn of central Government funding from the Transport Innovation Fund, which unlocks a £3bn improvement programme for Manchester’s transport system. This enables a pretty comprehensive programme of modernisation funding to develop a world-class transport system. The list of planned improvements is impressive, covering tram, bus (including a fleet of dedicated yellow school buses), trains, park & ride, cycling, smart card technology, eight new transport interchanges etc. etc.
But, at what cost? As the press widely reports, this funding is only enabled because Manchester is considering a dual-ring congestion charging zone, in part to fund the transport investments but also to limit demand and encourage behavioural change.
This is a big step for national policy and a huge step for Manchester itself. Formally, the situation is that Ruth Kelly was annoucing on the 9th June that Manchester had achieved a stage-gate called “programme entry”. This means that the Government support the package in principle, have provisionally made the money available and commit themselves to working closely with Greater Manchester as it develops its proposals in the coming months.
You can find out what Ruth Kelly actually said in her annoucement to parliament at the wonderful theyworkforyou.com, or watch it as a video. You can also see the actual responses from the various local MPs.