3 Billion for Manchester’s public transport… No Thanks!

To be quite honest I wasn’t surprised by the spectacular defeat of the TIF bid in Manchester… I got my shock a couple of days earlier when we got the ballot papers through the post and I was talking to friends and family during Eid day about it all…
Well, there I was getting on with my life and thinking that the TIF bid was doing really well, talking to some of my more ‘active’ friends, the whole debate seemed to be pretty settled.. Public transport is particularly shitty and so three billion would be definitely a good thing… all makes perfect sense.

Common sense, I thought would lead the huge amount of people who have to rely the truly crappy public transport to vote YES…well, no it seemed that something else was afoot. Talking to my friends and family about the possibility that public transport would be improved, led to startled questions of whether I was voting Yes… well, duh!

I rely on public transport for day-to-day travel and trust me some of the stories would actually bring tears to your eyes (they certainly did to mine after waiting for hours in the cold and rain only to be told a million uninspiring stories about why a tram/train/bus was delayed/re-routed/cancelled…).

‘But why? Don’t you know that you would have to pay 1,200 pounds a year if you had a car? I couldn’t afford that!’

Firstly, most of these people don’t have cars right now as they can’t afford them and if they (or I) were ever to get cars, paying the congestion charge seems a small trade-off for our laziness and helping to poison the planet…

Secondly and most worryingly, they actually know what public transport is like. They have waited hours for a bus/tram that never showed up, they get that public transport needs to be better…so WHY are my working class friends and family, who NEED better public transport voting NO?? I just couldn’t make sense of it all.

Digging a little deeper, it was obvious that despite the massive campaigns to help educate the public, there was still loads of misunderstanding (if not total ignorance) about the major aspects of the TIF bid. (Despite the reported £34 million the authorities spent on the whole campaign). The main thing that seemed to surprise them was the fact that the congestion charge was part of a bid for a 1.5 billion grant from the central government … and that Manchester had come up with the Congestion Charge as a way to pay back a further 1.5 billion loan from government as a way to win the money and improve our public transport. A lot of people seem to believe that the congestion charge was concocted simply to make money to be invested in public transport as its own plan… Others just don’t trust local councils to be able to improve the public transport and not abuse the power (and money) that they would get their hands on.. Linked into this lack of trust, another major reason that my friends/family voted no was that they saw private transport as the only real solution to escaping abysmal public transport. Following this logic they didn’t want another obstacle (such as a congestion charge) in their path to achieving this…

Although I could understand (sort of) their reasons for voting ‘No’, in reality it didn’t make any sense. The amount of people who rely on public transport from working-class backgrounds is huge and will continue to grow in this increasingly fragile economy. So getting better and cheaper public transport is gonna be vital if we still want to work and study. Hoping that cars become cheaper and more affordable instead is a really bad idea…Also, if we are going to reduce emissions to avoid the worst effects of climate change, then public transport has to grow and car-use has to stop..There really is no other option.

In hindsight, the reason these messages didn’t reach the people who voted ‘No’ although better public transport is in their interest, is that they we didn’t speak to them in their own language. We didn’t state the amount of jobs that would be created (a clear numerical figure to challenge the 1,200 the No Campaigners used) and we didn’t highlight the fact that that improved public transport was a real possibility whilst cheaper private transport isn’t. Had we addressed, or even recognised, these concerns we could have had a real impact on their final decision.

Now, that the votes are in- overall 812,815 (78.8%) voted ‘No’ whilst only 218,860 (21.2%) voted in favour of the 3 billion- it seems that Manchester’s public transport just doesn’t need 3 billions.. who knew…

2 responses to “3 Billion for Manchester’s public transport… No Thanks!


    I can’t help thinking, Arwa, that people voted for the private car because private property is the measure of status, and status trumps everything after 30 years of “greed is good”. I seriously doubt that many people thought it through, or even considered it. The young public transport users of today believe that they will soon be car drivers and able to leave the low status of bus and tram travel behind. I hope I’m wrong, but experience suggests otherwise.

  2. Maybe your right, maybe its all down to status. And facts aside they were not willing to let anything get in their way of their dreams of one day being rich enough to have their very own gas-guzzler…Regards to young public transport users, your sadly right…When things go wrong public transport-wise, they don’t push for improvements but rather pray that they won’t have to rely on it for much longer…

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