The Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has urged caution re the recent announcement by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham that he intends to introduce a zonal charging policy on the Metrolink tram system from next year.
The Greater Manchester tram network will be split into four zones, with passengers charged one fare for travel within a single zone and a different fare for travelling across one or more zones. Shaw and Crompton is in Zone 4, whilst all of the remaining stations in the Borough will be in Zone 3. Derker is on the boundary.
“This is just barmy,” stated Councillor Sykes. “Common sense says that Shaw and Crompton should be in the same zone as the rest of the Oldham Borough.”
Councillor Sykes who represents Oldham on the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee (TfGMC) said: “I think we can all welcome in principle a simpler fare structure, but the devil will be in the final detail.”
“At present there are some 8,556 stop-to-stop fares; the promise is to reduce this to just 10. This will bring Metrolink in line with the practices of the London Underground, and the practices that we, the Liberal Democrats, have been calling for TfGMC to implement or many months and years.”
Councillor Sykes added: “We face a whopping 19% fare increase over three years despite the tram network being in massive profit and also failing to collect significant cash from those who choose to avoid paying.”
“It is unclear whether these proposals will reduce any of these costs, and it will be disappointing if they do not, as a huge fare increase by a fifth will be a tremendous extra financial burden for many local passengers.”
“The prediction is that these changes will be used to mask that massive 19% fare increase.”
“The Mayor says that passengers enjoy ‘journey quality’ when we have seen an increase in anti-social and criminal behaviour, including several vicious attacks at tram stops, and poor operational performance on the Oldham line,” stated Councillor Sykes. These are the issues that need addressing first, along with our promised direct link to Piccadilly, the principal mainline station for Greater Manchester.”
Councillor Sykes is particularly concerned about the impact on his own constituents in Shaw: “Shaw and Crompton will be placed in Zone 4 when the other stops in the Borough will be in Zone 3.”
“This will mean that residents in Shaw and Crompton will pay significantly more than those in the rest of Oldham Borough to travel into Manchester or to travel into Oldham town centre for leisure or to work. It will be cheaper to go to Rochdale than Oldham. It will also cost the hundreds of people who use it to travel to work in Shaw more as well!”
Councillor Sykes is disappointed by the lack of consultation with councillors before the plan was unveiled: “Like the general public, I only saw these proposals when they were published. It is disappointing that the Mayor of Greater Manchester did not trouble himself to first consult the councillors who represent the ten districts in the conurbation on the TfGM Committee; even though they are charged with oversight of Metrolink matters.
This is typical of the increasingly top-down approach from the Labour Mayor rather than bottom up. I am only glad that at least there will be some public consultation, and I urge everyone who has an opinion to voice theirs.”