Our city region, the world’s first industrial city, remains a hive of activity. It’s why Mancunians adopted the worker bee as a symbol for the area. But the economic growth of the city-region, and of its component parts, including Tameside, is often held back because of the poor transport infrastructure we have.
For Greater Manchester to work as an economic unit, we need to ensure that its citizens can access the massive opportunities that living in a city-region like ours can bring. Yes we need more quality jobs creating and locating here in Tameside; but the reality is many Tamesiders will work outside of the borough across Greater Manchester.
It’s great that, for example, Media City in Salford has brought a multitude of hi-tech jobs to the Quays, and many more have been created as the critical mass of the BBC and ITV requires loads of supporting creative industries nearby. The twin challenge is how we get Tameside kids (and adults too) skilled up for those job opportunities – and then, as importantly, how we can physically get them there.
It’s the latter point I want to discuss briefly in this article. You see, as I type it on the train to London on Monday afternoon, I’ve just attended the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s big transport announcement. And if Andy Burnham’s vision comes to fruition, it will transform the opportunities of Tameside’s next generation, because poor transport links has held back our borough for too long.
Andy’s ‘Our Network’ vision is important because it seeks to end the fragmentation and bad competition practices that has blighted the system for the last 33 years when the Thatcher Government deregulated the buses. Instead we are looking at extending Metrolink principles: zonal fares, single ticketing, frequency and cleanliness standards across a fully integrated and (pending a decision of the Combined Authority on Friday) regulated transport network; one where tram, bus and rail all works together and is planned as a single network.
There’ll be new railway stations, including one at Dewsnap in the Dukinfield part of my constituency; new train services – and Denton station looks set to be used; tram-train will be introduced (running Metrolink services on the existing railway network, but alongside passenger trains); and there’s even an audacious bid for Greater Manchester to take on the rail franchise from Northern. Added to this, an ambitious investment in new walking and cycling infrastructure through the ‘Bee Network’, and the introduction of the UK’s largest public cycle hire scheme, means the whole of Greater Manchester can be shared by its component parts.
If all of this investment works, it will be a real game changer and will help transform the economic prospects for Tameside and Tamesiders. Next, to tackle the future skills challenge. But that’s the subject for another article sometime!