Transport investment creating economic growth for Greater Manchester

Transport for Manchester explains why connectivity is key for developing the north.   Interview by Bernadette Ballantyne.

As the transport delivery arm of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has an important role to play in the ambitions of the city and the wider region in becoming a true Northern Powerhouse. “We are all about economic growth and the way that Greater Manchester works is by aligning planning with housing with education and transport,” says Dr Jon Lamonte, chief executive of TfGM.

Manchester sits at a critical juncture as in the future incoming high speed rail from the north-west HS2 link will connect it to London in 68 minutes and at the same time it is at the centre of the band of major cities spanning the Northern region from east to west and could be a vital link in the proposed HS3 service.

 “People should be looking at us and seeing the largest more ambitious transport infrastructure programme outside of London so the opportunities are enormous" - Dr Jon Lamonte, TfGM

“Since One North the region has been developing a programme of transformational interventions, a multimodal strategy, which is not just about moving people, it is also about moving goods and freight,” explains Dave Newton, transport strategy director at TfGM. This work is being carried out by a new organisation called Transport for the North consisting of council leaders from the six northern city regions:  Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, the North East and Hull and the Humber, along with representatives from the Department for Transport, the Highways Agency, Network Rail and High Speed 2.

It met for the first time in January alongside a regional reference group made up of the political leaders of the non metropolitan councils. Their interim report is due for publication this month. “It has to bring forward the strategic case that One North set out so a programme of strategic interventions and a long term vision of what transport needs to do over a 20 to 40 year period to deliver growth,” says Newton.

The One North document published in July 2014 called for £15bn in transport investment over the next 15-20 years and highlighted the potential for high speed rail links from east to west across the North, which was then promptly labelled HS3. Potentially one of the largest schemes that could flow from this is a new rail tunnel across the Pennines between Leeds and Manchester.

Tunnelling is also being considered by the Highways Agency for a new cross Pennine road link which could slash current journey times between Sheffield and Manchester by 30 minutes. Newton also points to the need to improve road links to Liverpool with a need to “unblock” the congested M62 to M60 link North West of Manchester.

Of course the priorities and projects laid out by One North are about long term planning and build on work already underway in the region such as the extensive £1bn Northern Hub scheme which will improve connectivity between Manchester’s major stations of Victoria and Piccadilly.

“Building on that is the north west electrification programme which is already well developed between Liverpool and Manchester and should complete within a month or so giving better faster services. Then we start on the north and some of the bits up towards Preston and then to the east of Manchester towards Leeds,” says Lamonte.

Unlike many conurbations Manchester benefits from an extensive light rail system – Metrolink – which has recently been significantly expanded under a £1.5bn uniquely structured investment programme, bringing the network to 92 stops and handling 30m passengers per year. So successful is the tram that local areas are clamouring to benefit from this kind of public transport link, although some locations are more appropriate for light rail than others.

For those that are not TfGM are investigating a range of options to improve connectivity such as tram-train services where trams using the heavy rail lines to cover longer distances and then switch to the tram tracks once they reach the inner city, a method that is famously used in the German city of Karlsruhe. 

From the perspective of local conurbations TfGM’s interchange programme is perhaps one of the most transformational projects underway. Rochdale’s new £11.5m interchange which opened in 2013, not only connects bus, tram and road services but also harnesses renewable energy through a hydroelectric turbine harnessing hydropower from the River Roch.

A totally revamped interchange in Altringham has now provided a well lit, fully accessible transport interchange with good access to car parks. A new interchange at Wythenshawe is also under construction and works have also begun in Bolton. New interchanges at Wigan, Stockport and Ashton will follow.

Of course delivery of these important projects means working with consultants and contractors to get the best quality projects. “We are looking for best value for money for the taxpayer and at the end of the day that is not always the cheapest. It is about getting the best quality product that we can afford,” says Lamonte.

For those that can demonstrate quality, value, innovative thinking, a strong delivery record and local content, TfGM has a range of frameworks in place for delivery. “People should be looking at us and seeing the largest more ambitious transport infrastructure programme outside of London so the opportunities are enormous.”

Read the full article in the March issue of Infrastructure Intelligence, whcih can also be viewed as a pdf

If you would like to contact Bernadette Ballantyne about this, or any other story, please email


I read a report, sponsored by Mott MacDonald I believe, which described Dutch experiences of mixing guided bus routes with light rail. By installing the appropriate infrastructure upfront, such as lighting columns that can double as overhead catenaries they were able to create multi-mode travel solutions using the same hardware, as and when the budget / need arose. This would seem to be a sensible option for many of our requirements, especially where future need will justify, but present budgets don't, light rail. It seems trivial but maximising our investment now to drive future prosperity should be the mantra of our planning. We must see development not only as meeting a need but also as a driver of growth.