I recently attended the launch of the Investing in City Regions report at Manchester Town Hall which made the case for long term investment plans for transport in and between the Uk’s cities.
It’s a compelling piece of work and backs up a lot of what members have told us about the need for a shift in mindset when it comes to looking at getting the best return from transport investment. To prove conclusively that something which doesn’t exist yet will yield X amount of investment is always a tough act to pull off. Sometimes the best evidence is what is right in front of our noses.
During the ensuing discussion the point was made several times about the need to act quickly to make up for years of neglect and the potential impact this would have. In a way it’s having to go backwards to go forwards or, perhaps more accurately, just to catch up.
Anyone that regularly watches the Michael Portillo series Great British Railway Journeys will know that the inspiration behind it was a series of guides written in the 19th century by George Bradshaw. If you’ve never seen the programme it’s a great piece of armchair travelling as Portillo follows various rail routes across the UK and Europe and follows up on the description of places and the journey made by Bradshaw over 100 years ago.
I wonder though if anyone attempted a similar feat these days especially at a weekend how long they would spend on rail replacement buses whilst the significant and necessary overhaul of huge sections of track, signals and stations takes place. I’m not so sure that the BBC would have commissioned Great British Rail Replacement Bus Journeys as eagerly.
It’s also the same on the roads. Overnight there seems to have been a surge in public works on a number of major roads in and around Manchester. With much of the city centre under the shovel ahead of the second city crossing for Metrolink and preparatory work for the Ordsall Chord; huge swathes of the M60 and M62 being upgraded to smart motorway status and a host of other works in progress.
Should we complain though?
I’m not so sure. For years the level of grumbling about shoddy railways, roads and poor connectivity has been deafening. Unfortunately due to the decades of under-investment we have managed to get ourselves in such a position that any attempt to make good the shortfall can only result in huge disruption.
So, unfortunately, there are a few years of this yet to come as the job is still not finished and in some cases it hasn’t even started. What is clear though is that there must be priority work identified - those schemes that will have most benefit for the economy and these must be delivered quicker.
I think everyone agrees that better transport connectivity and integration works and brings with it huge economic and social benefits. What isn’t so agreeable is the hit we are now taking with the current levels of disruption. With extra journey times, disruption to services and increasing levels of frustration we really are paying the price of progress. We must and can not afford ever to get left so far behind again.