Andy Burnham to run for Greater Manchester mayor

Andy Burnham, feeling angelic. Image: Getty.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, will enter the race to be Labour’s mayoral candidate next year’s inaugural election to the role of Greater Manchester mayor. He has retooled his official Twitter campaign from his failed bid for the Labour leadership as @Andy4Manchester and will give a speech in Manchester tomorrow.

Burnham, who finished second in the 2015 leadership election having finished fourth in 2010, will face heavyweight opposition in his bid to secure Labour’s selection. (The election itself is widely believed to be a slam-dunk for Labour.)

Many Manchester activists are sceptical of his run, with one flatly stating that “the first mayor of Greater Manchester cannot be a Scouser”, and another deriding Burnham as “a professional Scouser” who would be better off running for the role of Merseyside mayor, which is also up for grabs.

However, scepticism of Burnham’s candidacy in Manchester itself is not shared in the entirety of the conurbation that the new Mayor will run. In addition to the city of Manchester, the new Mayor’s writ extends to nine other local authorities: Stockport, Trafford, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Wigan, Oldham, Salford and Tameside. There is an appetite among Labour party activists elsewhere in the region to avoid the new Mayor being too Manchester-focused, which is why many were keen for Jim McMahon, formerly leader of Oldham Council and now MP for Oldham West and Royton, to throw his hat in the ring. Burnham – whose seat of Leigh is in Greater Manchester – may now be able to appeal to those voters.

But Tony Lloyd, the interim mayor of Greater Manchester, and Labour MP from 1983 to 2012, when he stepped down to run for the position of Police and Crime Commissioner, is widely considered to be the favourite. He has secured the backing of Unite, whose political operation is particularly effective in the North West, and has most of the institutional backing of the party’s power-brokers in the region.

Ivan Lewis, Labour MP for Bury South, meanwhile, is believed to have raised more money than his rivals and is already advertising to party members on Facebook. He is thought likely to secure the votes of much of the Bury Labour party. His policy approach is similar to that of Richard Leese, the mayor of Manchester city council. Leese is unable to contest the post himself as he has a police caution and the post includes the powers and restrictions of a Police and Crime Commissioner. 

Although Labour have yet to make a regional breakdown of its leadership results publicly available, Burnham came top of the pack in constituency Labour party nominations in the conurbation, which proved a fairly accurate barometer of membership sentiment. Burnham took 10 of the 27 constituencies, with Jeremy Corbyn and Yvette Cooper taking five each, while a further seven declined to nominate.

If Burnham is successfully elected, it would trigger a scramble for his safe seat of Leigh, however, coming boundary changes may make the post less attractive, as the sitting MP will likely have to fight a selection battle against the neighbouring MP, Barbara Keeley. 

This piece was originally posted on our sister site, The Staggers


Everything you ever wanted to know about the Seoul Metro System but were too afraid to ask

Gwanghwamoon subway station on line 5 in Seoul, 2010. Image: Getty.

Seoul’s metro system carries 7m passengers a day across 1,000 miles of track. The system is as much a regional commuter railway as an urban subway system. Without technically leaving the network, one can travel from Asan over 50 miles to the south of central Seoul, all the way up to the North Korean border 20 miles north of the city.

Fares are incredibly low for a developed country. A basic fare of 1,250 won (about £1) will allow you to travel 10km; it’s only an extra 100 won (about 7p) to travel every additional 5km on most lines.

The trains are reasonably quick: maximum speeds of 62mph and average operating speeds of around 20mph make them comparable to London Underground. But the trains are much more spacious, air conditioned and have wi-fi access. Every station also has protective fences, between platform and track, to prevent suicides and accidents.

The network

The  service has a complex system of ownership and operation. The Seoul Metro Company (owned by Seoul City council) operates lines 5-8 on its own, but lines 1-4 are operated jointly with Korail, the state-owned national rail company. Meanwhile, Line 9 is operated jointly between Trans-Dev (a French company which operates many buses in northern England) and RATP (The Parisian version of TfL).

Then there’s Neotrans, owned by the Korean conglomerate Doosan, which owns and operates the driverless Sinbundang line. The Incheon city government, which borders Seoul to the west, owns and operates Incheon Line 1 and Line 2.

The Airport Express was originally built and owned by a corporation jointly owned by 11 large Korean firms, but is now mostly owned by Korail. The Uijeongbu light railway is currently being taken over by the Uijeongbu city council (that one’s north of Seoul) after the operating company went bankrupt. And the Everline people mover is operated by a joint venture owned by Bombardier and a variety of Korean companies.

Seoul’s subway map. Click to expand. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The rest of the lines are operated by the national rail operator Korail. The fare structure is either identical or very similar for all of these lines. All buses and trains in the region are accessible with a T-money card, similar to London’s Oyster card. Fares are collected centrally and then distributed back to operators based on levels of usage.


The Korean government spends around £27bn on transport every year: that works out at 10 per cent more per person than the British government spends.  The Seoul subway’s annual loss of around £200m is covered by this budget.

The main reason the loss is much lower than TfL’s £458m is that, despite Seoul’s lower fares, it also has much lower maintenance costs. The oldest line, Line 1 is only 44 years old.

Higher levels of automation and lower crime rates also mean there are fewer staff. Workers pay is also lower: a newly qualified driver will be paid around £27,000 a year compared to £49,000 in London.

New infrastructure is paid for by central government. However, investment in the capital does not cause the same regional rivalries as it does in the UK for a variety of reasons. Firstly, investment is not so heavily concentrated in the capital. Five other cities have subways; the second city of Busan has an extensive five-line network.

What’s more, while investment is still skewed towards Seoul, it’s a much bigger city than London, and South Korea is physically a much smaller country than the UK (about the size of Scotland and Wales combined). Some 40 per cent of the national population lives on the Seoul network – and everyone else who lives on the mainland can be in Seoul within 3 hours.

Finally, politically the biggest divide in South Korea is between the south-west and the south-east (the recently ousted President Park Geun-Hye won just 11 per cent of the vote in the south west, while winning 69 per cent in the south-east). Seoul is seen as neutral territory.  


A driverless train on the Shinbundang Line. Image: Wikicommons.

The system is far from perfect. Seoul’s network is highly radial. It’s incredibly cheap and easy to travel from outer lying areas to the centre, and around the centre itself. But travelling from one of Seoul’s satellite cities to another by public transport is often difficult. A journey from central Goyang (population: 1m) to central Incheon (population: 3m) is around 30 minutes by car. By public transport, it takes around 2 hours. There is no real equivalent of the London Overground.

There is also a lack of fast commuter services. The four-track Seoul Line 1 offers express services to Incheon and Cheonan, and some commuter towns south of the city are covered by intercity services. But most large cities of hundreds of thousands of people within commuting distance (places comparable to Reading or Milton Keynes) are reliant on the subway network, and do not have a fast rail link that takes commuters directly to the city centre.

This is changing however with the construction of a system modelled on the Paris RER and London’s Crossrail. The GTX will operate at maximum speed of 110Mph. The first line (of three planned) is scheduled to open in 2023, and will extend from the new town of Ilsan on the North Korean border to the new town of Dongtan about 25km south of the city centre.

The system will stop much less regularly than Crossrail or the RER resulting in drastic cuts in journey times. For example, the time from llsan to Gangnam (of Gangnam Style fame) will be cut from around 1hr30 to just 17 minutes. When the three-line network is complete most of the major cities in the region will have a direct fast link to Seoul Station, the focal point of the GTX as well as the national rail network. A very good public transport network is going to get even better.