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Burnham calls for government action amid traffic chaos

Photo: Dave Thompson, PA

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester expressed rising anger over daily travel chaos in the city. He said Manchester is grinding to a halt without support from London and called for a meeting with government ministers.

He said a "perfect storm" of extensive roadworks and poor train services has resulted in daily gridlock on the roads across Manchester, with journeys of just a couple of miles taking more than an hour.

The chaos led to Manchester United being late for a Champions League match a fortnight ago, and this week manager Jose Mourinho abandoned the team bus to walk to the ground.

He was not the only one late for work: just 34% of TransPennine train services were on time on Monday, while roadworks around the city centre, due to last up to 12 months, have brought traffic to a standstill.

Mr Burnham said commuters have abandoned trains, adding to the burden on the roads, and he understands he is now the target for commuters' frustration - but said he is not the one to blame.

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Credit: Granada Reports

The combination of chaos on road and rail is really making people miserable and frustrated, I know it, I speak to people, I hear it.

"It is just completely unacceptable. People's patience has more than run out.

"It's very clear to me I simply do not have the power to get a grip over what is an outdated, fragmented and unaccountable transport system."

– Andy Burnham

He said his powers over roads, trains, buses and utilities digging up roads are less than those of the Mayor of London, leaving him unable to solve the problems.

He announced a number of short-term measures including a real-time information GPS system for sat-navs to tell motorists of congestion on the roads.

Extra bus and tram services are also being provided and a new cut-price Early Bird offer for those willing to travel before rush-hour. Urgent reviews will also take place for handling midweek evening matches at Old Trafford and "non-essential" roadworks. The mayor has also asked employers to make use of flexible working to avoid the 9-to-5 rush.

But he said commuters in the North are not being treated the same as in the South.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has issued an ultimatum to train operator Govia Thameslink in the South, he said, but there has been no such warning to TransPennine and Northern, which are performing worse.

Mr Burnham repeated a request to meet Mr Grayling, to whom he last spoke, on the phone, in the summer.

He added:

It cannot be right that the country's second city is experiencing disruption on this level without support from the centre.

"It's not right we just have silence from the Government.

"We lack basic powers over the day-to-day running of our transport system.

"I am calling on the Transport Secretary to give commuters in the North the same focus as those in the London and the South.

"He needs to deliver the same ultimatum to our failing rail operators as he recently did to Thameslink."

– Andy Burnham
Credit: PA

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said:

It cannot be right that the country's second city is experiencing disruption on this level without support from the centre.

"It's not right we just have silence from the Government.

"We lack basic powers over the day-to-day running of our transport system.

"I am calling on the Transport Secretary to give commuters in the North the same focus as those in the London and the South.

"He needs to deliver the same ultimatum to our failing rail operators as he recently did to Thameslink."

– Department for Transport