1. Transport
June 25, 2019updated 30 Jul 2021 2:06pm

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has unveiled the region’s new “tube map”

By Jonn Elledge

Well, this is exciting. Here’s the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, promising that the true capital of England should get its own tube map:

He’s referring to the imaginatively named “Our Network” programme, a 10-year plan to “deliver an integrated, accessible and affordable public transport system, which” – this bit is fluffy but inevitable – puts passengers first”.

He is, you will be amazed to learn, over-selling the “tube map” point. For one thing, the video that shows the new map in its various forms is “indicative and purely for illustrative purposes”, so it’s not clear how seriously we can take it. For another, drawing lines on maps is a lot easier than turning maps into reality.

But nonetheless, we love a map round here, so let’s take a closer look. Transport for Greater Manchester has re-imagined the conurbation as a series of concentric circles, with Manchester city centre at its heart and the various other boroughs (Stockport, Bolton and so on) on some of the outer rings. The larger blobs represent more important centres; the colours represent the transport modes on offer at each.

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Here’s how Metrolink looks on that map:

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And here’s a version with some exciting new extensions on it, as dotted lines:

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Port Salford! A quicker route to Manchester Airport! Middleton, a place which spawned one of the former hosts of our podcast! How terribly exciting.

And now here are the buses:

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That’s a lot more extensive, but also, since it’s buses, it’s not clear how excited we should be. Buses aren’t really something you’d show on a “tube map”, are they? Which you can tell from the fact that they’re, well, buses.

But! The Greater Manchester combined Authority has just agreed it should move ahead with a London-style bus franchising system, which would make it the first major city outside the capital to actually plan its bus network, rather than just allowing the market to let rip, in more than 30 years. And I don’t know much about the region’s existing bus network – but Jen Williams of the Manchester Evening News tweeted yesterday that the new map showed a “cledar aspiration… to improve orbital and east-west links”. So, all this sounds like it might be rather a good thing.

The next slide is cycling and walking which is just a sort of background honeycomb arrangement which tells us nothing, so moving on we come to rail…

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…and then “tram-trains”: basically extending the Metrolink by using existing rail routes to places like Stockport, Glossop, even Warrington.

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The “tube map” label is over-selling things a little – it says more about the strength of the tube map’s own brand than Greater Manchester’s future transport network, I feel. Nonetheless, this is a fairly ambitious programme, and a sign that maybe, just maybe, the mayoral model of devolution is a pretty good idea.

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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