Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has unveiled the region’s new “tube map”

Andy Andy Andy, oi oi oi. Image: Getty.

Well, this is exciting. Here’s the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, promising that the true capital of England should get its own tube map:

He’s referring to the imaginatively named “Our Network” programme, a 10-year plan to “deliver an integrated, accessible and affordable public transport system, which” – this bit is fluffy but inevitable – puts passengers first”.

He is, you will be amazed to learn, over-selling the “tube map” point. For one thing, the video that shows the new map in its various forms is “indicative and purely for illustrative purposes”, so it’s not clear how seriously we can take it. For another, drawing lines on maps is a lot easier than turning maps into reality.

But nonetheless, we love a map round here, so let’s take a closer look. Transport for Greater Manchester has re-imagined the conurbation as a series of concentric circles, with Manchester city centre at its heart and the various other boroughs (Stockport, Bolton and so on) on some of the outer rings. The larger blobs represent more important centres; the colours represent the transport modes on offer at each.

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Here’s how Metrolink looks on that map:

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And here’s a version with some exciting new extensions on it, as dotted lines:

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Port Salford! A quicker route to Manchester Airport! Middleton, a place which spawned one of the former hosts of our podcast! How terribly exciting.

And now here are the buses:

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That’s a lot more extensive, but also, since it’s buses, it’s not clear how excited we should be. Buses aren’t really something you’d show on a “tube map”, are they? Which you can tell from the fact that they’re, well, buses.

But! The Greater Manchester combined Authority has just agreed it should move ahead with a London-style bus franchising system, which would make it the first major city outside the capital to actually plan its bus network, rather than just allowing the market to let rip, in more than 30 years. And I don’t know much about the region’s existing bus network – but Jen Williams of the Manchester Evening News tweeted yesterday that the new map showed a “cledar aspiration... to improve orbital and east-west links”. So, all this sounds like it might be rather a good thing.

The next slide is cycling and walking which is just a sort of background honeycomb arrangement which tells us nothing, so moving on we come to rail...

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...and then “tram-trains”: basically extending the Metrolink by using existing rail routes to places like Stockport, Glossop, even Warrington.

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The “tube map” label is over-selling things a little – it says more about the strength of the tube map’s own brand than Greater Manchester’s future transport network, I feel. Nonetheless, this is a fairly ambitious programme, and a sign that maybe, just maybe, the mayoral model of devolution is a pretty good idea.

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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Do South Hampshire deserve its own metro mayors?

Portsmouth. Image: Getty.

The idea of metro mayors is a good idea. So good, in fact, I think is should be brought to other conurbations, such as the south coast cities of Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton.

Greater Brighton has already got the idea in motion – although it needs more momentum to make it happen and democratise it. The question is what changes in Hampshire are needed for a Greater Southampton or a Greater Portsmouth to exist?

A small bit of backstory. The government had an idea a few years ago to create a Solent City deal, which included South Hampshire and Isle of Wight. The plan fell flat because Hampshire County Council blocked it.

Hampshire today. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

This was the right thing to do in my opinion. The government’s ambition was to rope together a very diverse area with no clear economic heart – it was always going to be a bad idea. Giving the region an extra few million pound a year may have sounded good for strapped for cash councils in the area, but would have met with a lot of opposition and resentment from locals.

Redrawing the county map

I don't ask for much, just to drastically re-shape Hampshire. Image: author provided.

In order to make this happen, Hampshire's county council should be dismantled and all the councils in the county turned into unitary authorities. Various Hampshire councils have applied to create a Southampton City Region, to qualify for transport funding – but the current proposal doesn't include Romsey and Winchester.

This to me is short sighted and arrogant on Hampshire's part. It’s come about in part because Hampshire doesn't want to lose its "capital", but also because these are wealthy areas and they'd rather they weren’t mixed up with the sorts that live in Soton. We should bin that sort of attitude.

The proposed Southampton City Region. Image: author provided.

Much like Southampton, there is a desire for more cross-border partnership in the Portsmouth City Region (PCR), too. Most of the boroughs are established, though I’d favour a tiny bit of adjustment to create a Waterlooville borough and enlarge Fareham slightly. All that’s necessary requires is the breaking up of Winchester council (again) to be reused.

The current proposal includes the Isle of Wight, which I don’t think is a good idea. The city region proposal focuses purely on Ryde, a single town on a sparse island. The resources required to improve connectivity between the island and the Portsmouth region should be a lower priority when there are more pressing issues in the city-region, such as addressing housing and transport between Gosport and Portsmouth.

The proposed Portsmouth City Region. Image: author provided.

I realise that many in Hampshire do not like change: it’s difficult for a traditionally rural county to embrace its metropolitan potential. However, city mayors lead to greater productivity by improving the distribution of resources. The establishment of metro mayors for these cities will tackle issues that have been affecting Hampshire for quite some time: the poor transport and the inequality between different communities.