Sunday, 8 August 2010

Manchester's Two Transport 'Gods'

When it comes to Manchester and modes of transport there are 2 'gods' to which the local environment can be sacrificed – one is the Metrolink tram system and the other is the Airport. When the two combine, then Heaven help what is left of South Manchester's biodiversity.

As recently as June 24th I mentioned the possibility of a Metrolink line to the Airport, stating that it had not yet got funding. Things have moved faster than I thought, the line has now been approved, and work is expected to begin within a year. There is a good case for improving public transport links between Wythenshawe and the rest of the city, for example when Withington Hospital was closed, it was on the basis that Wythenshawe would serve the whole catchment area. The line isn't about this though – it's about the Airport. To emphasise this the South Manchester Reporter's lead story on this granted the longest quote and the only photo, not to a South Manchester politician but to the boss of the Airport, Geoff Muirhead. Residents living close to the Airport line will also be pleased to hear of the intention to run trams from as early as 3 am, whilst to add injury to insult, the branch which passed Wythenshawe Hospital in the previous plans seems to have disappeared completely.

In that previous blog I mentioned the impact on the Mersey Valley, and I'll refer people again to an excellent blog post from Dave Bishop on this; also here's a photo of the type of area which will be lost , but there are issues with the route from Chorlton even before it gets that far.

Presumably the plan is still to destroy the central reservation of Mauldeth Road South, with all its trees.  As well as the loss of trees this would create 6 lanes (four road and two rail) down that stretch and the junction with Barlow Moor Road would be highly problematic.    When the plan was route was first proposed, back in the late 1990s, Greens in Chorlton opposed this destruction. I have long felt that if the Metrolink is there to take cars of the road, then it should take up road space instead of Green belt or existing heavy rail lines (elsewhere in the conurbation, the development of Metrolink has led to the closure of existing rail facilities for years at a time). In this case it should use part of Princess Parkway. That's if one accepts that such a tram-link is the best transport solution.

There is a precedent for protecting the valley from outdated transport plans. Decades ago there was a proposal to extend Mauldeth Road South/Hardy lane into a motorway spur across the Mersey Valley at Jackson's boat and onto what is now the M60. Apart from a half-hearted attempt to revive it about 20 years ago by Trafford Tory Philistines, it has been long dead and buried.

The usual approach of the '3 Main' Parties to any Metrolink expansion is along the lines of 'We brought the Metrolink', 'No, we brought the Metrolink' etc. - It's like a scene out of the movie 'Spartacus'. Following their well-publicised opposition to the football development plans in the Mersey Valley, it will be interesting to see what the local Lib Dem councillors, and the remaining Labour councillor, in Chorlton/Chorlton Park have to say about this route.  


futureA said...

The Mersey valley is a brilliant asset to Manchester but I think that using a small strip of it for metrolink is a worthwhile proposition.

The reason for choosing this particular route is so that it can serve people who curretly have a poor public transport service. Running the line down Princess road would only be duplicating the route of most of the buses and it would not not be able to reach as many people as the proposed route can.

There are also various problems with running trams on the street ranging from collisions with other vehicles causing injury to the passengers on the tram and other vehicles and also damage to the trams. People who plan and design tram systems try to segrate lines from traffic as much as possible.
I also think it would be a very unwise idea to segregate sections of princess road just for trams. This would only make the traffic worse for people who live along it.

Running trams on the street also makes them susceptable to traffic delays of the road, which kind of defeats the object of having a tram service in the first place since it is suposed to be quick!

As for the Airport, the metrolink line will take almost an hour to reach it from the city centre. Four times longer than the 15 minutes that the train takes. It is not being promoted as a means to catch a flight (except maybe for locals) but is is more for people who work at the airport and live in Whyvenshawe. You cant dissagree with that, even if you do object to flying?

Mauldeth Road West is another small price to pay as well. It is a shame we will loose some trees but as I mentioned before, a long meandering route would not be attractive for reasons such as speed of service and serving the population.

Dave Bishop said...

An article in a recent edition of the Guardian newspaper (17.08.10)quotes Ahmed Djoghlaf who is the secretary general to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Mister Djoghlaf informs us that: "No country has met its targets to protect nature. We are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. If the current levels [of destruction] go on we will reach a tipping point very soon. The future of the planet now depends on governments taking action in the next few years."

Djoghlaf went on to criticise countries for separating action on climate change from protecting biodiversity. "The loss of biodiversity exacerbates climate change."

The article ends by anticipating the conclusions of a UN report due out in October. "[It] is expected to say that the economic case for global action to stop species destruction is even more powerful than the argument for tackling climate change." It will say that saving biodiversity is cost-effective and the benefits of saving "natural goods and services" ... are 10 to 100 times the cost of saving the habitats and species that provide them."

The full text of the article can be read here:

But what are we doing in Manchester, a city which has aspirations to being the Greenest in the UK? We are planning to destroy a rich, unique and diverse habitat (Lower Hardy Farm). And that is after destroying the important habitats that had developed, over decades, between Old Trafford and East Didsbury. Some of you may tell me that mitigation measures have been put in place - but, in my opinion most of those measures are weak and feeble and in no way make up for what has been lost.

I should tell you that I am retired and have decided to devote my retirement to cataloguing the plant life in the Mersey Valley. So far I have been able to submit 3000 records to GMEU. As a result of this activity (which has necessitated walking many miles, on a regular basis, along local footpaths) I have come to the conclusion that local biodiversity is hardly valued at all and is still seen as being eminently expendable. Sites which I value are regularly damaged or completely destroyed.

Manchester will never be a Green City until its wildlife is valued and afforded much better protection

krister said...

The thing is, as the population grows the infrastucture needs to be improved and inevitably untouched areas of nature will suffer. And as futureA said, other problems will follow re: safety of the public, etc.

futureA said...

Dave, it totaly agree that biodiversity is important. But I do think this topic has been sensationalised slightly. We are not talking about concreting over the meadows and building a coal fired power station. But rather sacrificing a tiny strip of land 8 metres wide and 500 metres long. That is a small price to pay for a transport system that people clearly want to use and one should reach as many people who need it.

Human activity will always impact wildlife. But all the possible routes for this line that avoid the meadows would result in a poorer quality service.

Fortionaltey, all the permissions for this line where obtained over ten years ago, and now the money is in the bank, it is deffinately going ahead.