#31 Manchester: Transport Is About "Giving People A Choice"

Episode 37 May 03, 2023 00:26:30
#31 Manchester: Transport Is About "Giving People A Choice"
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
#31 Manchester: Transport Is About "Giving People A Choice"

May 03 2023 | 00:26:30


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

This episode was recorded live at the Autonomy Mobility World Expo 2023 in Paris, where Smart in the City was a Media Partner. 


In this episode, we travel to Manchester in the UK and talk about public transport, active mobility, integration, railway network and more with Nick Fairclough, Senior Policy Manager at Transport for Greater Manchester.


Overview of the episode:

02:29 - Teaser: What is a little-known fact about Manchester?

03:11 - What led our guest to work in transport?

05:20 - How does Transport for Greater Manchester work?

07:35 - What are the similarities and differences in your organisation to others?

08:54 - Is there an increase in people biking and walking?

10:17 - What does success look like for integration?

11:19 - Do cars have a place in integration?

12:08 - What are the barriers? What are the challenges? 

13:17 - Where does public transport fall short?

14:58 - What is the business model behind public transport in Manchester?

18:51 - Nick Fairclough's favourite project: the development of Greater Manchester's bus plan

20:37 - What does Greater Manchester look like in 2050?

22:47 - Inspire Us: our guest shares a story, a quote, or anything that has inspired them recently

24:27 - Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


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View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Tamlyn Shimizu 00:00:06 Welcome to Smart in the City - The BABLE Podcast, where we bring together top actors in the Smart City arena, sparking dialogues and interactions around the stakeholders and themes most prevalent for today's citizens and tomorrow's generations. I am your host, Tamlyn Shimizu, and I hope that you'll enjoy this episode and gain knowledge and connections to drive the change for a better urban life. Smart in the city is brought to you by BABLE Smart Cities. We enable processes from research and strategy development to co-creation and implementation. To learn more about us, please visit the BABLE platform at bable-smartcities.eu. Now, just a short intermission to let you know of a small opportunity. Are you interested in a site visit to DOLL Living Lab in Copenhagen, combined with the BABLE interactive capacity building session? Well, we are teaming up with DOLL to offer a full experience package. So for more information, just book a call with us and we'll tell you all about it. Uh, you can find the link in the show notes now onto the regular programming. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:11 So welcome to a new episode. It's in cooperation with Autonomy Mobility World Expo, and I'm actually sitting in the city of Paris live at the Expo, um, as a media partner and, uh, yeah, collaborating partner as well. And I'm enjoying meeting all the different partners and urban stakeholders here. Um, and while we may be in Paris, we're actually in this episode, we're not talking that much about Paris. We're, we're gonna move a little bit to England, of course, and more precisely to the area of Manchester, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the uk. So with me, um, is Nick Fairclough. Um, he is a senior policy manager at Transport for Greater Manchester. So, hi Nick, welcome to the show. Nick Fairclough 00:01:56 Hi, nice to meet you. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:57 Nice to meet you as well. And, uh, are you enjoying this year's autonomy so far? Nick Fairclough 00:02:01 Very much so. It's really exciting to see so much innovation in one room, um, and great to be in Paris as well. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:02:07 Yeah, Paris is, um, well, usually a good time. We're we're, it's a bit of a difficult time right now that we're sitting at. I haven't seen the garbage bags piling up. I think we got here at the right time, so Nick Fairclough 00:02:17 <laugh>. <laugh> Tamlyn Shimizu 00:02:18 Good. Um, so I'm wondering if, um, now we, we turn a little bit of the focus. Um, so Manchester, you're, you were raised there around that area, I believe. Yes, Nick Fairclough 00:02:29 Yes. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:02:29 Um, so you must have some nice little tidbits, <laugh>, um, of, of little known facts about Manchester. So I wanted to ask you, um, what about, uh, either Manchester or Greater Manchester, if you have a little fact to share with, with our audience? Nick Fairclough 00:02:44 Sure. Well, from a, from a transport perspective, um, not only was it, uh, the leader in the, uh, industrial revolution, but Manchester was also the place, uh, that invented the modern railway and also was the first place in the UK to have buses 200 years ago next year. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:00 Ooh, wow. Is there gonna be like a bus party to celebrate? Nick Fairclough 00:03:03 I hope so. <laugh>, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:05 You're putting it on, right? Nick Fairclough 00:03:06 I'll be the first in line. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:07 Okay, good. And I'm on the invite list, Nick Fairclough 00:03:09 <laugh>. Sure, absolutely Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:11 <laugh>. Perfect. Perfect. So, um, I also want to hear about your story a little bit, Nick, like what led you into transport, what led you here? Um, tell us all, please. Nick Fairclough 00:03:22 Of course. So, um, as you've mentioned, I I grew up in Greater Manchester, and I think it's a really exciting place to be. And, and so I started my career there. I, I've fact my whole career has been in Greater Manchester, so I spent several years working for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which is our, our city regional government, working with, um, our mayor and the 10 leaders of Greater Manchester, uh, supporting on a wide number of different policy areas. So looking at, um, em, employment standards, uh, looking at how we can improve access to opportunity, uh, the economy, all sorts of, all sorts of different areas. Um, but it's a really exciting time at the moment for Transport in Greater Manchester, um, in, in the UK at the moment. Uh, buses, there we go again, I can talk about buses all day. Uh, buses are deregulated outside of London, so basically that means that that local areas have very little control over them. Nick Fairclough 00:04:20 Um, greater Manchester is taking control of its local services. Um, and, and what that means is that we are gonna have much greater ability to affect where they go, who they serve, uh, and, and, and, and how people get around, um, as part of a wider integrated transport system. So I think if, if you're going to work anywhere in transport at the moment, I think Greater Manchester is probably one of the most exciting places to do that. And that's really what attracted me to, uh, to my current role, um, working on, uh, buses, but also, um, more widely than that, how we integrate, um, buses with Rail, with, uh, active travel and with Metrolink, our like rail system as well. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:05:03 Very, very interesting background. So, um, also a plug for, I guess any career opportunities at, uh, transport for Greater Manchester Best Place. You heard it from him. Absolutely. Best place to work. So, um, yes, thank you for, for sharing all of that. So, um, can you give us a little bit more of an overview about how Transport for Greater Manchester works? Like how are the different departments? How is it, how is it working Nick Fairclough 00:05:28 Ab Absolutely. So, um, uh, we work, we work very closely with the 10, uh, local authorities in Greater Manchester. Uh, and they're the highway authorities as well. So they control the roads, uh, and we work with them to support services, uh, provide passengers, customers with information. Uh, we own, uh, Metrolink, which is our, our light rail system, which is the largest one in the uk. Um, and, and, and what we've been tasked to do by the mayor, by the leaders of Greater Manchester is develop that London style integrated transport system that, that I think everyone sees as being the right way to go in the future. Um, and so lots of people working very hard to that end, uh, at the moment. And we're working with partners in government, with operators, and with local stakeholders as well to make sure we get there. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:06:23 Cool. Um, so about this cooperation, how, how does that cooperation work, um, really with, uh, also, do you work with private sector? Do you work, uh, I guess with all of the different stakeholders? How, how does that work? Nick Fairclough 00:06:36 Ab Absolutely. So, so we work very closely with, with local residents as you'd expect. So we are, we're, we're, we're very keen to make sure that that local people feel that they own their transport network. Um, and, uh, the integrated transport system that we're building is called the Bee Network. Why the Bee Network? Well, the, the be is a, uh, a civic symbol of, of, of Manchester and, and, and laterally greater Manchester, um, partner. It comes about actually because of the, uh, industrial revolution. So bees were seen as a symbol of being an, an industrious place, um, where people work together in a hive. Um, so, so that, that's where the names come from, and that's what we're, we're working to deliver. So yes, working with residents to do that, we're working with with businesses as well, um, to make sure that the services we provide fit their needs, but also because we know there's an awful lot of experience and knowledge and expertise that we can draw on as we, as we build that system. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:07:35 Yeah, yeah, definitely. Very important. Um, so what do you think are the similarities and maybe more of the differences in say, uh, another transport organization like yours? Like how do you function differently? Nick Fairclough 00:07:50 So, I, I, I, I think ev every city, every area has a slightly different way of setting up how it, how it runs, transport services. Um, clearly, I, uh, I think, I think the fact that until now we've not had that, that level of control over bus services, which are by a significant margin, the most, uh, the most used form of public transport in greater Manchester means that we are slightly different to, to many other transport agencies that you'd see in, see in European cities. So our role has been more about supporting customers, trying to coordinate between operators as best we can. Um, but I think it's also fair to say that that role is now changing and, and with the B network, we are gonna have a, a really important role, um, in delivering for passengers in greater Manchester as well. And, and, and delivering, actually, not just for people who are using public transport, but people who want to walk and cycle around greater Manchester and, and users of shared mobility as well. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:08:54 Are you seeing an increase in people biking, cycling? Uh, that's the same thing, biking and cycling, walking, <laugh>, all of these things. <laugh> Nick Fairclough 00:09:02 Yeah. A a absolutely. Um, um, uh, definitely and, and through the Covid 19 pandemic, we saw, uh, an increase in, in, in people using active travel, walking, wheeling, cycling to, to get around greater Manchester. And that's something that we, we've wanted to build on. So we've got some, some really ambitious plans to, to develop our, our active travel network. And what we want to see is that that's an integrated part of that wider transport system, as well as integrated as buses, as trains, as any other elements, because fundamentally that's how people are going to get to and from bus stops, railway stations, uh, et cetera. And, and that's really important. Um, we've got a, um, we've got two transport commissioners actually. So we've got, uh, uh, an active travel commissioner, Dame Sarah story, um, who has recently launched a, a, a refreshed mission for active travel in the city region. So really focused around making sure it's accessible, supporting people to, to travel around in different ways, and also communicating about it in new ways. Um, and we have a transport commissioner as well, Vernon Everett, uh, who's leading us on that journey into the integrated London style public transport network that we want to see. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:10:17 I hear the word integration a lot. What does success look like for integration? Nick Fairclough 00:10:22 So I think we want people in greater Manchester to be able to travel around almost in, in a, in a way that's almost frictionless mm-hmm. Between different, between different modes of, of, of travel. So whether, whether people are taking a bus than a train or a tram than a, than a, a higher cycle to get to their destination, it almost, they, they almost shouldn't notice that they're changing between different ways of getting around. Um, you might need to notice that if you're on a bike, if you <laugh>, if you just sit there and don't pedal, you won't get very far. But, um, I, I think we want to make it as easy as possible for people to get around. Um, and with that, we want them to be able to access opportunity, um, uh, meet friends, tackle social exclusion, um, and do all the, do all the normal everyday things that we rely on a, on a transport network to enable. Um, it's not transport for transport's sake, but it's about what can transport enable. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:11:19 Do cars have a place in integration? Nick Fairclough 00:11:21 I, I, yes. Um, certainly. Um, and, and the B network certainly isn't about being anti-car or, or anything like that, but it's about giving people a choice, I think. And, and we know that, that building a better public transport network is good for everyone because it improves air quality, it reduces carbon emissions. It, it even reduces congestion as well. So for those people who aren't able to take public transport for their journey, for whatever reason, there are are advantages there too. Um, and, and cars as well. Through integration, we, we hope that there are opportunities for things like park and rides or, or even park and Strides, which is where you park your car and then, and then walk the remainder of your journeys. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:12:04 Ooh, I haven't heard that before. Park and Strides. Nick Fairclough 00:12:06 It's a, it's a natty term. <laugh> Tamlyn Shimizu 00:12:08 <laugh>. Very nice. Very nice. And, and what's, what's stopping this? What are the barriers? What are the challenges? Nick Fairclough 00:12:15 So I I, I, I think at the moment we're, we're, we're working through those challenges as, as, as much as we can. Um, I think the nature, I think the way in which public transport has been set up in the past has been a bit of a barrier to integration. Um, those barriers are beginning to fall away now, and we're, we're working really closely with, with operators to, to do that commercial and otherwise. Um, just yesterday, um, the mayor and the leaders of Greater Manchester signed a new devolution deal with government, actually. And one of the things in there was that it said that we could now work really closely with, with great British railways, which is the, the, the emerging guiding mind for the railway in the u in in Great Britain. Um, and what that means is that that gives us that opportunity to properly integrate our railway network with the light rail network that we already control, and with the buses that are shortly coming under our control. So it feels like there's a golden opportunity in the next few years to do something really special. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:13:17 That's incredible. Yeah. I, I think we all, uh, feel that every time, just as a commuter or as someone who travels this sometimes big disconnect between, um, okay, now I have to walk 20 minutes to get to my next mode of transport, or things along those lines. So, um, I guess this is a pain point for me personally, <laugh>, so I appreciate that, um, is what I'm trying to say. So, um, what, where do you think public transport falls short? Uh, Nick Fairclough 00:13:52 It's gonna be a boring answer, but I, I, I think Integra, I think integration at the moment of, but that's the main goal of the lack thereof is, is a, is a big gap. I I think there are other elements as well that we will want to improve over time. So I think at the moment, um, a frequency of service is something that, that, that's, that's lacking. And I think, unfortunately we've been in a, a position where, um, patronages dropped because services aren't that easy to use. That means that they're not as financially viable as they would've been, which means that, uh, operators necessarily have to remove services, which then makes the offer yet more unattractive. And so fewer people use it. And so it, it, it, it, it's a downward spiral, unfortunately. But I hope that, that by delivering this, this more attractive, more integrated network, we can get to a position where the spiral goes in the other direction, where suddenly you have a network that's attracting more people, that that is more commercially viable, which then means we can invest in more services and help to make them more attractive and bring more people onto the network. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:14:58 Makes sense. Um, finances, you mentioned it and I wanna touch on it. What's, what's the business model behind, uh, public transport in Manchester? Like, how do we make it financially, um, doable for, yeah. Let's say low income, um, families and, uh, yeah. How do you do it? Nick Fairclough 00:15:16 Ab ab? So we, we know that affordability is a, is a really important concern for people traveling on the public transport network, and it's a really important reason why some people don't travel on the public transport network as well. Um, one of the things that, that we've done in advance actually, of, of taking proper control of the, uh, of the bus network has been to, to introduce fair caps. Um, so from September last year, um, we introduced a, uh, a two pound cap for single journeys, five pound for a day ticket. Um, and what was really exciting about that was that that showed a significant uptick in patronage as a result over the following three months. So, uh, the, the, uh, fair Cat started in September, and we were looking at a 10% increase, uh, of patronage, uh, o over the following three months. Um, which I think is, is great news for public transport because it shows that there are opportunities to bring more people to onto the network. Nick Fairclough 00:16:17 And I think what we saw through that and, uh, uh, a piece of an evaluation's been done looking at what the impact of that, that that work is. Um, we've, we've seen that many of the people who, who took the bus more in that period are people who don't use it frequently and haven't used it previously. So there is appetite there to get onto public transport, even, even from people who haven't necessarily used it in the past. Um, and sort of following on from, from that initial cap earlier this year, we introduced a a a a a fair cap for, for weekly tickets as well, because we recognize that those are the tickets that are used mostly by, by regular users of, of, of buses. And, and they're people who, who, who also should benefit from, from, from the opportunity that a, a, a lower or fixed fair can provide, um, particularly in the context of a, a cost of living crisis. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:17:11 How did you find those numbers? Like, was, was there a lot of data backing those decisions or was it like, let's try this price point and see how it goes? Nick Fairclough 00:17:19 So, so it was partly based on, um, existing fairs and partly based on what was possible with the funding we had available. Um, a a and also, I think importantly it was about simplification as well. So before, for example, the two pound fair cap, um, journeys were as in, as in many places based on destination. And, and, and the price you would pay would depend on how far you were going. So, um, in some places that could be up to four pounds for a single journey. Um, but I think having a really simple fair offer offers people the opportunity to think, oh, I'll get the bus. I know exactly how much it costs wherever I'm going. It's an easy option to make. And I suppose it comes back to that point about ease of use, creating a frictionless system. If people know what to expect before they get on public transport, then I think it makes it a much more attractive offer. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:18:16 Absolutely. I, I love the simplification also of the price plans too. I feel like we don't talk about that that much, and I've come across so many different, um, cities and places where I, I come there, I'm, it's my first time there and I have no idea which ticket to buy. <laugh>. Like, okay, it's talking about this zone, this place. I'm like, I don't know which, which wedge zone I'm going to, in which area. So, uh, I think simplification there is really important as well. So, um, yeah, maybe you've already spoken about it, but do you have a favorite project or anything that you want to speak about? Nick Fairclough 00:18:51 So one of the things that I'm really fortunate to be working on at the moment is the development of our, uh, bus plan, um, buses. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:18:59 It all comes back to buses and keep Nick Fairclough 00:19:01 Talking about buses, but they're, they're, they're really important. And I think, um, that our bus plan gives us an opportunity to set out a really exciting vision for what buses in Greater Manchester can provide. We know that, as I've mentioned, they're already the most, the most used form of public transport in the city region, but I think there's an opportunity for them to be used more, not least because from a, from a carbon reduction perspective, that one of the, the easiest ways that we can take, uh, large people arou take large numbers of people rather <laugh> around, around the city region, um, in a, in a, in a less carbon intensive way than, than, than than cars or, or other forms of travel. And buses are also really flexible compared to rail based forms of transport too. So, um, we can add in services, try new things, be innovative as well as we go. Um, so I think there's a real opportunity there. And because we've not done this before, because we are franchising afresh, I think there's an opportunity, uh, that, that that's almost unique. Um, we probably won't get this opportunity again in, in, in the coming years because we are starting, starting afresh. So I think there's a real, a real chance for us to, to do something new and to build in some e exciting ideas for the future. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:20:26 Cool buses? Yes. Nick Fairclough 00:20:28 Always Tamlyn Shimizu 00:20:29 <laugh>, always buses, <laugh> Nick, the bus guy. That's right. Nick Fairclough 00:20:32 Another forms of public transport. We want an integrated B network. Yes. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:20:37 We don't discriminate. We just really like buses <laugh>. Um, good, good. Um, so last, last question of our, of our main, um, of our main section. I just want you to paint a picture in you for the audience. Um, imagine Greater Manchester in year 2050, let's say. What does it look like? Nick Fairclough 00:20:56 Well, uh, <laugh> Tamlyn Shimizu 00:20:57 Integrated transfer and lots of buses. Nick Fairclough 00:20:59 <laugh>, you took the words right outta my mouth. <laugh>. Um, yeah. Well, yes, absolutely. I, I, I, I think it's a, it's a, it's a place that, that's, that's fairer, that's greener, that's more prosperous, driven by good, reliable, attractive, affordable public transport. That's easy to use, simple to understand, goes where you need it to at an appropriate level of frequency. Uh, it, it sounds fairly simple, but I, I I think the opportunity it presents is, is fairly revolutionary. Hmm. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:21:30 Yeah. Good picture. Good picture to paint. And, um, this is your chance, your only chance I give you in the interview. No, I'm just kidding. <laugh>. But this is your chance to, um, I, I always like to give an open floor Now, um, is there anything that we didn't touch on during this that you're like, oh, people really need to know about this? Nick Fairclough 00:21:51 I, I think, I think the, the, the, the other thing that I would mention is that, um, that we have touched on, but I think deserve some emphasis as well, is the role of active travel in delivering a successful B network. Um, we know that at the moment, um, many people don't feel that they're able to safely cycle or scoot or e even walk to be honest, uh, to their destination, even where the journey is relatively short. Um, so helping people to feel, feel safe, both in terms of reducing antisocial behavior, but also, uh, making sure that the highway and the the infrastructure that's in play that's in place supports people to get to their destination in a way that they feel safe about. I think that's gonna be a really important part of our work over the next few years as well. So in short, buses, yes. Really important, but so is the rest of it too, <laugh>? Tamlyn Shimizu 00:22:47 Good, good. Um, great words to end it on. Um, now I move to a little segment that we have. So we have different segments, um, that we choose for different interviewees. Um, and the one that we chose today for you is called, it's very nice. It's a very lovely one. Um, <laugh>, it's called Inspire Us. Inspire us just a little bit with a story, a quote, or anything that has inspired you recently. Nick Fairclough 00:23:19 Oh, goodness. Um, I, I, I, I think traveling around on really, really well put together, properly integrated. There I go again, <laugh>, um, transport networks as I've done to get here today. So traveling through London, traveling through Paris, I've seen that the, the opportunities that those can bring. And I, I think sometimes when, when we are focused on improving transport, it, it can be very easy to go, to get stuck in a silo almost, and become very focused on buses or other forms of transport. <laugh>, it's not about, it's not about the vehicle, it's not about the mode. It's about the people on it, and it's about how we get them to their destination, whether that's the new job visiting someone in hospital, meeting a friend, whatever. But it's about helping people to really achieve their potential and supporting them to do that in a, in a simple way. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:24:21 That was very inspiring. You, you, you did the assignment well. So Nick Fairclough 00:24:25 <laugh>, thank you very much. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:24:27 Good. Now I have one last question for you. So we're almost to the end. You're done brilliantly so far. Um, the question I ask every single guest, um, it's always very interesting to hear the different perspectives, and it's, to you, what is a smart city? Nick Fairclough 00:24:44 I think a smart city is one that works closely with the people who live there and work there. One in which people have access to high quality services, including transport, uh, on, on one that, that sees itself, but having a role locally, but also a role globally. And that's, uh, I suppose part of the reason why it's such a pleasure to be here today, um, part of a, a a global group of cities coming and talking about what we can do better and what we're already doing. So yeah, I think that's a smart city for me. Yeah, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:25:22 Very good answer. Um, have no, have no, uh, um, notes on that. So <laugh>, yeah. Then, um, that's all she wrote. So, uh, thanks so much, Nick. I, I know it's always tight schedule at events and everything running around, um, but it's, it's really, really valued to get your insights on all of this information. And I know everyone will be really interested to hear about all this work that you're doing. Um, so yeah, I appreciate your time and have fun at the event. Nick Fairclough 00:25:49 Thank you very much. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:25:50 And to all of our listeners, uh, don't forget, you can always create a free account on bable-smartcities.eu to find out more about smart city projects, solutions, implementations, all these cool things happening. Um, and with that, thank you so much. Thank you all for listening. I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban life.

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