by Iain Roberts on 16 December, 2015
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.