Tory cash vow may trigger expansion in Metrolink routes
BUT LABOUR LABEL PROMISE AS ‘PATHETIC’ BID TO COVER UP LACK OF INVESTMENT
BORIS Johnson has promised cash which he says could expand the Metrolink to Greater Manchester’s outer boroughs.
The Tories are promising to hand over a long-term, devolved pot of funding to improve the region’s public transport infrastructure, which they suggest would be used to expand the tram out to Stockport and Bolton.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has not said how much money the region would get, or over what period of time.
A share of £4.2bn - split between eight areas - would be given to the mayor and local leaders who, in all likelihood, would then use it according to the masterplan set out by Andy Burnham in the summer.
That plan includes a range of projects, eventually including tram-trains to parts of Stockport and Wigan, but initially Metrolink extensions to Hale, Stalybridge and Middleton, plus new orbital bus routes. However an announcement by the Conservatives suggested they ‘expected’ the cash to see the tram extended to Bolton and Stockport, both election battlegrounds for the Tories and places that have severely struggled with congested Northern Rail services.
Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said: “This announcement is a pathetic attempt to cover up the government’s disastrous and incompetent failure to invest in public transport.
“Tory cuts have caused public transport fares to rise at twice the rate of wages and thousands of bus routes to be cut, worsening congestion on our roads as a result.
“The north is set to receive £2,389 less per person than London on transport. The Tories have presided over an unbalanced and unequal economy.”
Mr Shapps said: “These plans will kickstart the transformation of services so they match those in London, ensuring more frequent and better services, more electrification, modern buses and trains and contactless smart ticketing.”
Greater Manchester has been pushing the government to commit to a long-term transport funding deal for a long time, so that it can plan its transport network into the future with certainty.
The mayor has also launched a 20-year vision for how he would spend any such cash, including the links it would build over the first few years.
Grant Shapps, left, and Andy McDonald