Manchester tram trips still under half the levels of pre-pandemic: Mayor appeals to public to return safely

While there are signs that pre-Covid routines are re-establishing themselves, public transport usage levels are still well below pre-pandemic levels.
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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has launched the campaign It’s Time to encourage people to get back to doing what they enjoy most while also supporting the city-region’s businesses by using public transport again.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) data analysed by Manchester World shows use of public transport in the city remains well below average pre-pandemic levels: with train and tram trips around 50% down on pre-Covid times.

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And while business leaders are keen to stress that things are steadily getting better, there is still some distance to travel before Manchester returns to pre-Covid levels of activity.

What is the campaign It’s Time?

With thousands of people set to return to the workplace and education after the summer holidays, residents in Manchester are being urged to get back to doing what they love.

Unveiling the It’s Time campaign, Mr Burnham urged people to get behind the reopening of the region and to think about their travelling plans while doing so.

Residents are still being urged to keep following the safety measures in place on public transport.

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Nevertheless, It’s Time is aiming to support businesses across Greater Manchester and encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport wherever they can.

A new Bee Flex Weekly product, which will mean people can make unlimited journeys on Metrolink trams and never pay more than a seven-day travel pass, launches in September.

A Metrolink tram. Photo: Peter Byrne/ POOL/AFP via Getty ImagesA Metrolink tram. Photo: Peter Byrne/ POOL/AFP via Getty Images
A Metrolink tram. Photo: Peter Byrne/ POOL/AFP via Getty Images

And TfGM has signed a major deal with Lifebuoy to provide hand sanitiser across the tram and bus network.

What did Mr Burnham say?

Launching the campaign, Mr Burnham said: “The last 18 months have been tough. Many people have missed seeing their loved ones, or meeting friends, while businesses have had to reduce their hours, introduce strict health measures or close for long periods of time – putting huge strain on employers and employees alike.

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“Public transport has run throughout the pandemic keeping essential workers moving and it remains clean, safe and reliable.

“Over the course of the pandemic we have stepped up cleaning on services, placed more staff out on the network to assist passengers and I have also asked that face coverings remain mandatory on Metrolink and in bus stations and Interchanges to help keep people safe.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesGreater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

“We now need to see more people coming back on board – or trying public transport for the first time as we all come together to help support the recovery of the region.

“But I would urge passengers to also play their part and ask them to keep on being kind to one another by following the guidance to keep each other safe – including wearing face coverings on trams.

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“We also know that how and when people travel may have changed and Metrolink, along with other transport operators have introduced a range of ticketing offers to ensure people can travel flexibly and affordably.

“I hope the continuing focus on safety and flexible ticketing will encourage more people to leave their car at home and support businesses across Greater Manchester by getting out and enjoying everything the region has to offer. “

What does the latest transport data say?

The most up-to-date statistics from TfGM show there is still some way to go before public transport usage returns to pre-pandemic levels.

In the week ending Sunday 22 August there were an estimated 2,304,000 trips on buses across Greater Manchester.

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This, though, was more than a million trips down on the typical weekly figure of 3,581,000 recorded before Covid-19 struck.

The most recent weekly figure of 408,000 Metrolink trips was less than half of the typical pre-pandemic level of 849,000.

In the week up to Sunday 22 August there were 642,000 estimated train trips, compared to a typical weekly level of 1,121,000.

Around 130,000 fewer trips were made by bicycle in the most recent week compared to pre-Covid.

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However, more people are getting out on foot, with some 11.9 million trips made by walking last week compared to around 10.4 million made on average in a seven-day period before the pandemic.

What do business groups say?

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce said things are definitely moving in the right direction.

However, progress is still slow and steady and businesses across the city-region do require more support from the public as work and life patterns return to something closer to the norm before Covid-19.

Policy and communications director at the chamber Chris Fletcher said: “There is all sorts of communication going on to let people know that we are open, we are safe and it would be great to see them back again.

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“Businesses are also beginning to step up their activities to try to get employees back into the office.

“It’s not forcing people back into work, it’s encouraging them to come back in.

“I was in the office on Monday and it seemed busier in Manchester than in the previous weeks.

GM Chamber of Commerce policy and communications director Chris FletcherGM Chamber of Commerce policy and communications director Chris Fletcher
GM Chamber of Commerce policy and communications director Chris Fletcher

“Three weeks ago it still felt like a bit of a ghost town, but now it is getting busier and there is more passing traffic.

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“We are a long way back from full occupancy but we are moving in the right direction.

“The football season starting with full capacity at grounds is important, and the concerts and theatres are coming back.

“There are still concerns around outbreaks of Covid and people being too ill to work, and sectors like hospitality are having difficulties with staffing.

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods completely but we are in a much better place than we were.”