Mayor calls on Government to help Greater Manchester ‘build back better’

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Greater Manchester is calling on Government to support its plans to ‘build back better’ and help to tackle air pollution as the city-region sets out ambitions for a green economic recovery.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen air pollution levels drop by 30% and road traffic volumes fall by as much as 52% across Greater Manchester as a result of the lockdown – and at the same time cycling journeys have increased by 42%.

To build on this, and give businesses across the city-region the support they need to prepare for the introduction of a Greater Manchester-wide Clean Air Zone as directed by Government, the Mayor is calling on ministers to financially support the city-region’s plans to rebuild the economy in an environmentally sustainable way.

The financial package would enable Greater Manchester businesses and transport operators to make the shift to cleaner vans, lorries, buses taxis and private hire vehicles.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Our focus has rightly been on reducing as best we can the terrible impacts of coronavirus on our people and our businesses.

But it’s also right that we now look to the future and how we can make sure that, as we recover, we build back better, but at the same time build back greener.

We’ve seen tremendous shifts in travel patterns over the last few months, with reduced air pollution levels, more people than ever before cycling and walking, and a significant switch to working from home, and we need to keep these benefits.

We can’t go back to how we were – no one wants to see the levels of air pollution and congestion we were experiencing. We must seize the opportunities offered by this difficult situation to support our businesses through recovery and into a greener future.

To achieve that we need dedicated funding from Government to support our businesses as they move to cleaner vehicles, and long-term funding to support the roll-out of more cycling and walking measures and to make sure our public transport network is capable of supporting our economy in a much more environmentally friendly way.”

The ask of ministers is made up of:

  • £98m for a Clean Commercial Vehicle Fund for vans, HGVs, coaches and minibuses (increased from £59m).
  • £16m for a Clean Bus Fund to support the retrofit of the existing bus fleet. (Greater Manchester is also working with Government on additional funding for the replacement of vehicles that can’t be retrofitted with new, cleaner vehicles.)
  • A £28m Clean Taxi Fund for taxi and private hire drivers and operators to switch to cleaner vehicles.
  • A new £10m hardship fund – dedicated to small businesses and sole traders who could face additional financial concerns to help them switch to compliant vehicles.
  • Funding for 350 new electric vehicle charging points, doubling the size of the existing Greater Manchester publicly owned charging network, and for up to 600 electric buses by the mid-2020s. (This investment would come from sources other than Government Clean Air Plan core funding.)

Greater Manchester local authorities are already progressing bold active travel plans after emergency funding was made available as part of coronavirus recovery, with their ‘Safe Streets Save Lives’ initiative. This has seen the creation of a new-look space for pedestrians and cyclists in Manchester city centre with the temporary closure of part of Deansgate to motor vehicles.

Plans for a Greater Manchester-wide bike hire scheme are also progressing, with the intention of offering residents a cost-effective, attractive and easy way to make short journeys.

Leaders continue to press Government for additional emergency funding to support Metrolink beyond 8 June, when the initial funding ends, and for a multi-year settlement for the Greater Manchester bus network.

Councillor Andrew Western, Greater Manchester Green City-region Lead, added: “Our recovery must be green and sustainable, and that means a shift away from transport powered by fossil fuels.

“Transport and goods deliveries are at the backbone of our economy, so that’s why we’re making this ask of Government to help us support local businesses and transport operators as they make the move to a greener, more sustainable future.

“Government has provided some initial funding but we need certainty on the full funding package as soon as possible so we can give Greater Manchester businesses, many of whom we know are struggling due to the coronavirus lockdown, the information they need to play a full role in a Clean Air Plan public consultation and further development of the proposals.

“In particular, I’d like to highlight the taxi and private hire trade, which has experienced some of the worst effects. Work is underway to look at the funding needed to support them on the road to a zero-emission future, and we continue to work closely with the trade on proposals for minimum licensing standards across Greater Manchester, to make sure they are suitable and achievable.”

Greater Manchester local authorities intend to consult on proposed taxi and private hire minimum licensing standards alongside the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan consultation, including a roadmap to when taxi and private hire fleets should be zero-emission capable.

Greater Manchester last month announced that plans to hold a statutory public consultation on the Clean Air Plan had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The consultation will be held as soon as is feasible.

A report on the consultation will be brought to Greater Manchester leaders when there is a clear timeframe for exiting lockdown and moving to the next phase of the coronavirus response. The delay to the consultation also means that the introduction of the Clean Air Zone has been moved back to 2022.