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Why public transport is essential to keep us moving

by Iain Roberts on 16 December, 2015

Gatley lights - one of the busiest junctions in Greater Manchester

Gatley lights – one of the busiest junctions in Greater Manchester

Traffic has always been pretty bad around Cheadle and Gatley, but there’s no doubt it’s got even worse in the years I’ve been living here. Longer queues, and at more times of the day too – it’s not just in rush hour any more. I’ll often come through Gatley around noon to find it completely solid.

So what’s going on – and what can we do about it?

The traffic is a symptom of our area being a place people want to live, want to work, and want to set up business. We live in a good area – well connected, with decent amenities and well-run local services and it attracts people.

Unfortunately, more people and more jobs means more journeys. More school runs. More commutes. More shopping trips. We’re all doing it.

And our roads can’t take the strain. The Gatley lights junction was built more than half a century ago and is hopelessly over-capacity. Whichever way you look at it, there’s one big problem – there are far more cars trying to go through the junction than there is roadspace to handle them, so we get long queues in all directions.

The traffic’s going to get worse too. We want our children and grandchildren to have local homes to live in. We want our area to continue being prosperous with lots of jobs and good local services. All of that means more homes, more businesses, more journeys and more traffic.

So what to do? How do we fix it?

Building more and bigger roads is part of the answer, but can only go so far. At the moment we’re constructing the new A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road and we’re widening St Mary’s Way in Stockport. The Poynton Relief Road plan is being developed. Highways England is busy turning the M60 into a “smart motorway” to fit more cars on it. But there’s only so much land to build roads on, and they’re a pretty inefficient way of moving people around.

Go to any big city and what do you find? Most people get around by public transport. How many people choose to drive in London? Or Paris? Or New York? These are places which have found that, in the modern world, when you get to be over a certain size, relying on roads just doesn’t work – the whole place grinds to a halt.

So we need better public transport. We need the sort of money to be spent on Greater Manchester and on the Northern Powerhouse that currently gets spent on London with their Underground, buses, trains, Crossrail and Crossrail 2.

We need to improve cycling facilities so people who want to cycle can do so easily and safely.

Currently in Greater Manchester around two thirds of journeys are made by car, a little under a third by public transport and a few percent by bike or on foot. We need to flip that around and make public transport easy and convenient enough to be the default choice for the majority of people. That frees up precious roadspace for those who really need it and keeps us moving over the coming years.

It’s not simple. Right now we just don’t have enough money to do the job that’s needed. We need an orbital tram or train going through Cheadle and Gatley to Stockport and the Airport (and to Airport City with all those thousands of new jobs). We need public transport to get people from the thousands of new homes planned for Cheshire East through Stockport and into Manchester without causing chaos on our roads. We need an easy way for people in Cheadle and Gatley to catch the tram into Manchester. We need a travel smartcard so you can pay for all these journeys quickly and easily whether on bus, tram or train, and right across the North of England.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth fighting for – and the Liberal Democrats will continue to lead that fight.





13 Responses

  1. Bruce says:

    I agree with everything you say but there is one fundamental problem. People are very reluctant to give up their cars. Years ago life was a lot more serene with fewer cars but times have changed – we live by the second now whereas a few years back it was by the hour.

    You see people walking down the road drinking coffee and some of them actually eating ‘food on the go’.

    We no longer work in locations that are central and serviced by public transport. My daughter works near Macclesfield and she has to use her car.

    And people are , in general, not as active as they used to be.

    The cars rules supreme.

    • Iain Roberts says:

      Exactly my point, Bruce: where public transport exists as a good alternative option, people choose to use it. More and more people are using trams and trains every year. The problem is all those areas not well served by public transport, that’s what we’ve got to tackle.

  2. Jane says:

    Here’s a simple solution to getting more traffic through the lights when they change……GET OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONES PEOPLE & STOP LEAVING HUGE GAPS BECAUSE YOU’RE STILL TEXTING WHEN THE LIGHTS CHANGE!! *rant over*

  3. Alan Gent says:

    Interesting piece Iain thanks. Whilst in theory, it’s fair to say that people will use PT if it’s available, that isn’t the case with the A34 traffic, which runs alongside a railway line into Manchester, yet fails to stem the large volume of traffic. It’s also worth bearing in mind when we talk of the Northwrn Powerhouse that no new money has been promised by the Tories to fund it; it’s all from existing budgets, yet another example of Tory smoke and mirrors. In fact a report has just been produced which quantifies what would be needed to fund the NP, £33bn and we all know that isn’t going to happen don’t we?

    • Iain Roberts says:

      Alan – I agree it’s a complex problem. It’s not just a matter of saying that a railway line runs parallel to the A34 as it depends on where people are coming from and going to, and whether that journey is possible and convenient by public transport. If someone’s journey is partially on the A34, then going on the M60 and ends up in Trafford Park, a train to Piccadilly may not be particularly helpful.

  4. Halifax says:

    Part of the problem, in fact a large part of the problem is that the Council have approved and keep approving housing developments that have no realistic PT links.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Well said, Jane. I couldn’t agree more.
    Halifax, I totally agree with you.
    Cheadle is very poorly served by public transport.

  6. Iain Roberts says:

    Halifax – true, but there’s no legal grounds to refuse applications on that basis so the Council couldn’t do it. That’s why we’re working to get those public transport improvements put in.

    • Halifax says:

      iain, I’ll have to accept your greater understanding as to how housing developments get approved. But as I suspect the majority of constituents are opposed to them, why doesn’t the Council at least fight tooth and nail against them and make it as difficult and as long winded as possible

      • Iain Roberts says:


        1. because it’s council taxpayers who have to pay the bill, which could be hundreds of thousands of pounds diverted from other services.

        2. because the Government has made clear that if councils do not decide planning applications quickly enough, or are seen to reject applications we shouldn’t, then the power to decide planning applications will be taken away from us and given to the government.

        • Halifax says:

          So what you are saying, if the Council doesn’t do as it is told, someone else will do it instead. So in effect all the Council is, is a rubber stamp ! Can’t say I think that is good value for my £1900 a year.

          Whereas stopping the developments that are blighting the area, would be a good use of my money.

  7. Mr S Powell says:

    What we need in all big cities that haven’t got one is an underground system – just like London – this would take an enormous amount of traffic off our roads – apart from building raised up roads , there doesn’t appear to be any other alternative

  8. Jb says:

    Replacement platforms at Cheadle and Gatley/Northenden would enable existing rail services to collect passengers to travel directly to Altrincham, Stockport, Piccadilly and Chester. Why cannot these be provided – now?

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