Transport bosses are being asked to restore late-night tram and bus services for a three-month trial period in a bid by Salford city council to boost its night-time economy and safeguard vulnerable people on their way home.
The call to Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) follows cross-party talks among councillors on the Labour-dominated city council which have resulted in a request for late services on the Eccles via Media City to Ashton-under-Lyne route. In addition, they want a shuttle bus/late night service for onward travel to the outlying areas of Salford ‘in safety’.
A resolution was agreed at a full meeting of the city council following several weeks of talks between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors. However, a last-minute amendment proposed by deputy mayor Coun John Merry suggesting the service should be ‘Government funded’ sparked a furious row in the meeting with Conservative leader Coun Robin Garrido saying the move was ‘against the spirit’ of the cross-party agreement thrashed out before the meeting.
Coun Garrido argued that the city council had ‘no power’ over funding of transport and such an amendment lacked legality, but he was overruled by the ceremonial mayor Coun Ann-Marie Humphreys.
However, city mayor Paul Dennett said: “We are here today because of decisions taken by the city council. We’ve been arguing for a number of years in Greater Manchester for a London-style transport system.
“The lack of public transport at night is a barrier to the night-time economy and a barrier to growth in the city region. We’ve seen chronic under-funding of public transport in Greater Manchester for many years. It’s scandalous.
“If we are serious about being a modern global city region, there is an absolute necessity for central government to work with the council to deliver that London-style transport system. It’s important because we are in the middle of a cost of living crisis.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat group leader Alex Warren hailed the cross-party cooperation after broaching the issue of late-night transport on grounds of safety at the October city council meeting.
He said: “All political parties in Salford have come together in recent weeks, with serious discussion and in unity.
“We have endeavoured to provide an example of what can happen when we cooperate with each other in government.
“This is a council that works for its citizens, that is not mired in ideology or national party gripes. But, it is pragmatic, diplomatic and to the point.”
He said the point was ‘about a safe travel option for people at night, and a public transport system that suits all workers, residents and customers in the [local] economy’.
After the meeting, Coun Garrido told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he was angry at the last-minute move by Coun Merry.
“We spent three weeks having meetings,” he said. “And we all went away happy having accepted all Labour’s suggestions, but at the last minute Coun Merry has come with an amendment in a blatant attempt to politicise the issue over funding.
“Because we are not a transport funding body, we agreed on Sunday we would take out any reference to funding, and then we got an email at the last minute it would go back in.
“It’s very sad because it’s the first time we’ve worked across the party divides for the benefit of the city.”