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Greater Manchester to submit non-charging clean air plan

Deniz Huseyin
10 January 2024
Bringing buses under local control means that Greater Manchester can run the cleanest vehicles where they are most needed to tackle poor air quality, says Mayor Andy Burnham.
Bringing buses under local control means that Greater Manchester can run the cleanest vehicles where they are most needed to tackle poor air quality, says Mayor Andy Burnham.
 

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham is pressing ahead with plans for a non-charging Clean Air Zone, which he argues is the best way of improving air quality. 

He points to modelling which suggests that a charging CAZ in the centre of Manchester and Salford would fail to bring down nitrogen dioxide levels within legal limits by 2026, as required by the Government. 

By contrast, a range of measures including zero emission locally-run buses, taxi upgrades and traffic flow measures, would bring down nitrogen dioxide levels to legal limits by 2025, according to modelling. 

For the past two years the mayor has resisted demands by central government for a charging scheme in Manchester and Salford, arguing it would put jobs and livelihoods at risk. 

The Government will ultimately decide whether Greater Manchester proceeds with its investment-led plan, or a charging Clean Air Zone, but evidence shows only the investment-led plan can meet the legal deadline, said Burnham. 

At the heart of this is the roll-out of a Bee Network bus franchise system, with all buses across the city region due to come under local control by January 2025. Bringing buses under local control means that Greater Manchester can run the cleanest vehicles where they are most needed to tackle poor air quality, said Burnham.  

This includes a £51.2m investment in 64 zero-emission electric (ZEB) buses and upgrades to electric vehicle charging infrastructure at bus depots in Manchester, Bolton and Middleton. 

The 64 electric buses would be in addition to the 85 currently in operation while 50 more are due to come into service in March 2024, bringing the fleet total to 199. 

To encourage bus travel, a Bee Network app has been launched, which features a new Bee Network bus family ticket, giving one or two adults and up to three children unlimited one day off-peak travel for £9.  

Services on the Metrolink tram network are also being extended, along with additional capacity with more double trams and more frequent services.  

Meanwhile, a £22.5m Clean Taxi Fund is providing grants of between £3,770 and £12,560 to help all taxis (Hackney Carriages and Private Hire Vehicles) licensed with a Greater Manchester local authority meet a new minimum emission standard by 31 December 2025.

The city region has also launched an £8m Electric Hackney Upgrade Fund providing grants of between £7,530 and £12,560 to help owners of GM-licensed Hackneys who meet the minimum emission standard help upgrade to a Zero Emission capable vehicle.  

Alongside this, £5m is being invested in measures to manage traffic flow on roads in Manchester and Salford, including Regent Road and Quay Street.  

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “By accelerating investment in the Bee Network to create a London-style integrated public transport network, and upgrading GM-licensed taxis, we can improve air quality faster than if we introduced a Clean Air Zone, and without causing hardship to our residents or businesses.  

“Since the first bus services came under local control, we have listened to feedback to make improvements and deliver change and are already seeing the benefits the Bee Network brings, with more people getting on board with lower fares under a locally controlled service, with new, state-of-the-art electric buses.” 

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