Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has launched an ambitious rail masterplan which will double the number of train commuters travelling into the city centre by 2040.
Transport chiefs are also aiming to triple the use of the Metrolink tram system across the wider city-region and introduce simple convenient zonal ticketing.
A key goal is to “rebuild trust” between passengers and train operators with a locally accountable Greater Manchester rail service which it’s claimed can deliver reliable and frequent services.
Mr Burnham’s bid to double the number of daily rail journeys to 200,000 in the next two decades – set out in the master plan “Our Prospectus for Rail” – comes in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s recent pledge to give areas like Greater Manchester more control over rail services and stations.
The Prospectus outlines a step-change in the role of rail to support the region’s planned growth, including the need to double rail passenger numbers to 200,000 in the regional centre by 2040; increasing rail journeys to Manchester Airport by 100% and moving towards a minimum standard of four trains per hour service from stations.
It also includes plans to build on the success of Metrolink through further expansion and enhancements, including 27 new units that will start to arrive from early 2020, with an aspiration for local rail services to meet the same high-quality standards.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) figures show that locally accountable rail services such as Metrolink deliver more reliable and frequent services compared to nationally run rail franchises.
Less than 1% of Metrolink services are cancelled and over 90% of services arrive on time – this is compared to less than 60% of Northern’s services running on time – within a minute of schedule. In London, where TfL has greater control, over 70% of services operated by TfL Rail and London Overground arrive when scheduled.
Developed by TfGM on behalf of Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Our Prospectus for Rail is a part of Our Network, Greater Manchester’s 10-year plan to create an integrated, simple and convenient public transport system with simple fares and ticketing and an improved customer experience across all types of transport – trains, trams, cycling and walking and buses.
Three quarters of public transport journeys in Greater Manchester are undertaken by bus and the GMCA will also shortly consider the next steps towards reforming the bus network, which could lead to it becoming the first city-region in the UK to use new powers available under the Bus Services Act 2017.
The plan has two stages. Under the first stage to 2025, the existing local rail franchises would be reshaped to provide simpler services in the Greater Manchester travel-to-work area. Eight coach trains would call at lengthened platforms, more Metrolink trams would operate in pairs and there would be a pilot tram-train scheme.
In the second stage from 2025 a ‘GM Rail’ would be created to deliver locally-controlled rail services. High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail would transform city-to-city links and release capacity on the conventional network. Metrolink would be expanded with new branches, extensions, the conversion of rail lines and tram-trains.
Mr Burnham said: “We need a fully integrated transport network that allows people to travel seamlessly between modes with simple, affordable ticketing – and Our Prospectus for Rail underpins the change we need on the local rail network to support growth. This is one of two major milestones in the Our Network journey during the next couple of weeks, which will also see GMCA reach the next stage of the process of reforming the bus market.
“Performance figures continue to reiterate what I have made clear for a long time – that the rail network is letting down Greater Manchester’s passengers and businesses. I have heard too many stories of people who have given up on trains because they just can’t rely on them to get them to work on time.
“The success of Metrolink shows that you can deliver high-quality rail services when those who design and deliver them are close and accountable to the customers they serve.
“We are pleased with the Prime Minister’s recent commitment – but we need the funding and powers to make them a reality. That is why Our Prospectus for Rail outlines our plans for GM Rail with more local control and accountability.
“Rather than operating in isolation, rail should help us to make sure that people who live, work and visit Greater Manchester benefit from world-class connections. This will allow our city-region to continue contributing to the growth of the Northern Powerhouse and in the critical role of rebalancing our national economy.”
Four key areas have been identified to deliver improved rail services – making the best use of what is available now; delivering more capacity and connectivity; a devolved and accountable rail network and integrated travel across all modes of transport.
The Mayor has also called for committed infrastructure improvement projects to be delivered, such as tackling the bottleneck in the Castlefield Corridor, upgrading the TransPennine route and ensuring HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are taken forward.
Mr Burnham said: “If we want to deliver economic growth, improve productivity and increase prosperity in the North we need to transform city-to-city links through the delivery of both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“We also need high-capacity, high-frequency metro-style rail services like those in successful cities around the world.”