Why Manchester’s public transport trails behind London and Birmingham in new green study

Campaigners say the report’s findings are proof the city has a long way still to go on its green journey.
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Manchester has slumped to a lowly rating in a study of dozens of European cities looking at their progress towards creating clean, green transport systems for the future.

The city came in a dismal 30th out of 36 in the report by Clean Cities, which analyses urban areas across the continent to see if they are on track to reach zero-emission travel by 2030.

Manchester got a poor score of 42.1% and a grading of D from the organisation, which looked at walking and cycling facilities, road safety, measures to clean up the air and environmentally-friendly public transport facilities.

Green campaigners say the findings show there is still a long way to go for Manchester to become a city with zero-emission transport.

What did Clean Cities find when it looked at Manchester?

Clean Cities found that Manchester scored 34% on space for people.

This compared the length of separated pedestrian routes and cycle paths with the length of the overall network while also looking at road congestion over the past three years.

The city performed best on safe roads, scoring 70% for the number of pedestrian and cyclist facilities over the past three years compared to the total population.

However, it received a score of just 31% for access to climate-friendly mobility solutions.

Where better than the city centre in the sun?  Credit: ShutterstockWhere better than the city centre in the sun?  Credit: Shutterstock
Where better than the city centre in the sun? Credit: Shutterstock

This included the affordability and accessibility of public transport and access to public and semi-public electric vehicle charging stations.

Manchester scored 39% for its policies, which looked at measures such as plans for zero or low-emissions zones, the phasing out of polluting fossil fuel vehicles, bike and car-sharing options and integrated public transport tickets or apps.

Finally Manchester received a score of 47% for its clean air, with Clean Cities tracking three-year annual mean concentrations and the five-year trends of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5).

How does Manchester compare to other cities?

Manchester was clearly some way off the performance of the greenest city in the study, the Norwegian capital city of Oslo, which got an overall rating of 71% and a grade B.

Scandinavian cities performed strongly, with Helsinki in Finland and Copenhagen in Denmark also in the top four.

London was the best-rated UK city at 12th, with Birmingham in 17th.

The only cities below Manchester in the study were Edinburgh, Rome, the Polish metropolitan area of Tri-City, Warsaw, Krakow and Naples.

What has been said about the study?

Manchester campaigners say the study is proof that the city remains some way behind developments to create green urban areas in parts of the continent.

They also called on Westminster to do more to help the city-region.

Nationally environmental groups have raised concerns about where all the UK cities were placed in the report, with particular alarm about the prohibitive cost of using public transport compared to other parts of Europe.

Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth sustainable transport campaigner, said: “This new evidence from Clean Cities shows how far Greater Manchester still has to go to enable people to get around in ways that are truly clean and green.

“In the context of an air pollution and climate emergency, a transition to active, shared and electric mobility is essential.

Cyclists/bikes and traffic/cars, rush hour, pollution, exhusts, fumesCyclists/bikes and traffic/cars, rush hour, pollution, exhusts, fumes
Cyclists/bikes and traffic/cars, rush hour, pollution, exhusts, fumes

“Greater Manchester is lagging behind other global cities and could learn much from the proactive policies they are putting in place to support walking, cycling and public transport, and to bring about a transition to cleaner vehicles.

”We urgently need the Government to provide the leadership and funding to enable Greater Manchester to be able to provide the affordable, reliable, clean and climate-friendly transport options.”

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This report makes clear the link between the cost of public transport and efforts to decarbonise transport and must therefore act as a wake-up call for the UK Government.

“We currently have a situation where it is often cheaper to drive or fly short distances than take the train or the bus, whereas the greenest option should always be the cheapest.

“We need more affordable public transport to help us achieve the government’s vision where public transport, cycling and walking are the first choice when it comes to transport.”

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has been approached for comment.

What have the report’s authors said?

Oliver Lord, UK head of the Clean Cities Campaign, said: “The only way to address our air pollution and climate crisis is to ensure public transport is a cheap, reliable and accessible alternative to the car.

“Our new report shows that UK cities have the least affordable public transport in Europe, which will inevitably get worse given this government’s decision to increase fares in a cost of living crisis.

“This government should be helping, not hindering, our cities to play their role in meeting the UK’s clean air and climate goals.”