Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Why I'm voting RON for Green Party leader. Plus my endorsements for GPEX elections.

So it's that time of the year again, elections for the Green Party executive (known as GPEX). Up for election this year are the positions of Leader or Co-leader, Deputy Leader(s), Chair, Campaigns Coordinator, Elections Coordinator, External Communications Coordinator, Management Coordinator, International Coordinator, Trade Union Liaison Officer, Finance Coordinator & Internal Communications Coordinator. That's a lot of positions to elect, 12. This includes leader(s) and deputy leader(s)! I'm going to give you my recommendations for who I'm voting for for each position. Hopefully you might find this useful.

Leader of Co-Leaders
So, the most public facing of all Green Party positions. This time around, Natalie Bennett has chosen not to re-stand and we have 5 candidates to choose from - Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley (for co-leaders), Simon Cross, Clive Lord, David Malone, Martie Warin and David Williams. I am voting for a 6th choice. To Re-Open Nominations (known as RON).

Why am I not giving my first preference to an actual candidate? Two main reasons. Firstly, the favourites to win are Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley. I do not believe it is healthy for the Green Party to rely on Caroline Lucas for our success. Yes she is a great politician and public speaker. However, I don't want the party to be known solely for Caroline Lucas. It's not healthy for the party in the long run to be known only for one member, especially when that member steps down or retires.

Secondly, all the candidates are white, straight, able bodied and from mostly middle class backgrounds. With the exception of Caroline Lucas all the candidates are also cisgender men. This isn't representative of minority or oppressed groups in Britain. I want to see a wider more diverse range of candidates standing. There are no people of colour, no LGBT+ people, no people with disabilities, no young people, etc.

Deputy Leader(s)
So for deputy leader I am voting for, in the following order: Amelia Womack, Shahrar Ali, Kat Boettge, Andrew Cooper, Daniella Radice, Storm Poorun and finally Re-Open Nominations. Unlike for leader, I think we have fantastic candidates for deputy leader. We have people of colour, women, disabled people, working class people and young people standing. My preferences are to re-elect Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali. They have both done a wonderful job of representing the party as a young woman and a BAME, which the party so desperately needs.

I am voting for Claire Phipps for chair, and giving John Coyne my second preference.

Campaigns Coordinator
I am supporting Chris Jarvis and Cadi Cliff for Campaigns Coordinator. I can't say I know much about Cadi, but I've known Chris for years and know he's extremely talented and experienced campaigner, both for the party and for other organisations. I endorsed him last year for Young Greens national coordinator. Very well worth your vote.

Elections Coordinator
Rob Telford is getting my vote for elections coordinator. Rob has been elected as a councillor in Bristol and has real experience of coordinating winning elections. This experience is vital for coordinating elections on a national level.

External Communications Coordinator
Matt Hawkins, Penny Kemp and Jennifer Nadel are standing as a jobshare for this role. Nobody else is standing so these people get my vote.

Management Coordinator
Again, Tom Chance and Liz Reason are the only candidates and standing as a jobshare so they get my vote.

International Coordinator
My choice for International Coordinator again goes to Jessica Northey and Derek Wall. There isn't a world I could imagine where I wouldn't vote for Derek Wall. He's been a member of the party for 30+ years and has always been a really strong advocate for eco-socialism and greater democracy in the party.

Trade Union Liaison Officer
A fairly new role and a really important role. I am giving my preference to Kieron Merrett. Kieron is the current secretary of the Green Party Trade Union Group, involvement in which I feel really important for the Trade Union Liaison Officer.

Finance Coordinator
I'm voting for Emma Carter, the only candidate for Finance Coordinator.

Internal Communications Coordinator
Sam Coates gets my vote for Internal Communications Coordinator. When I first joined the Green Party Sam was coordinator of the Young Greens, and has since gone onto do great things including being elected as a county councillor in Oxford. He's been on GPEx previously as Elections Coordinator as well as running the lead campaign for the Welsh Assembly elections in 2011. Really experienced and I'm confident he'll do a great job.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Top 10 Vegan Friendly Places in Manchester's Northern Quarter

Welcome to my next post about vegan places in Manchester, my top 10 vegan friendly places in the Northern Quarter, my favourite place in Manchester City Centre. After the success of my Top 10 vegan places in Manchester 2015 post recently I thought I'd write my top 10 vegan friendly places in the Northern Quarter. For clarification the boundaries of the Northern Quarter that I will use is from Piccadilly Gardens to Great Ancoats Street and between Shudehill and Piccadilly train station.

As with all of these posts, I have not visited every vegan friendly place in the area and this is just my favourite 10 places that I've visited. There are other vegan friendly places in the Northern Quarter that I haven't visited yet and there are dozens of cafes and restaurants in the Northern Quarter I know next to nothing about. Particular mentions go to Pie & Ale which does a vegan pie, and Oak Street Cafe in Manchester Craft and Design Centre which has a good few vegan options. I've heard good things about these places and I will visit them at some point.

10. Ning, Oldham Street

Ning is a Malaysian restaurant and catering company. Ning has plenty of vegan options, all of which are labelled. If you want a formal evening meal and not go to Dough, this may be suitable for you.

Website: http://www.ningcatering.com/

9. Beermoth, Tib Street

Beermoth is a specialist beer shop that has a special partnership with local brewer Marble Beers, a vegan brewery in Manchester. Beermoth has an amazing selection of beers and ales from all over the world from rare, alternative and independent breweries. If you're into beers and ales, this is certainly the place for you. I often buy people birthday/Christmas presents from here.

Website: http://beermoth.co.uk/

8. This & That, Soap Street

This & That is known for one thing, rice & 3. Rice and 3 portions of curry for a small amount of money (I forget how much). The curry changes each day of the week. There is a place just around the corner called Hunters that is similar and offers a good range. They also serve meat so if you want to avoid that, go somewhere else.

7. Bonbon Chocolate Boutique, John Street

This gem is the best place in Manchester for vegan hot chocolate, without a shadow of a doubt. They melt vegan chocolate, and add flavours such as orange freshly zested in front of you, vanilla and dark truffle. Not all the hot chocolate flavours are vegan though, although they do label the vegan options. They also have a range of chocolates and truffles, many of which are vegan and would make a great birthday present.

Website: http://www.bonbonchocolate.co.uk/

6. Odd Bar, Thomas Street

Odd Bar is part of a chain, that used to have 3 locations Odd, Odder (on Oxford Road) and Oddest (in Chorlton). Unfortunately Odder has recently closed down. The Odd chain is one of my favourite places to get vegan breakfasts, and is my favourite place to get a vegan breakfast in the Northern Quarter. They even call it a Vegantastic breakfast. They offer a few other vegan options, but the breakfast is the main reason to go here. Be aware that they also serve meat for those who want to avoid that.

Website: http://www.oddbar.co.uk/

5. Dough Pizza Kitchen, High Street

Dough is probably the place (other than Lotus in Withington) that I get told about most on social media. I had quite a number of people mention that is wasn't in my top 10 vegan places in Manchester. There's reasons why it wasn't, such as it serving meat, it being not that cheap (although reasonable for restaurant prices) and for the dessert menu being unreliable for keeping good vegan options. That being said, this is probably my favourite place in Manchester to eat vegan pizza (now that Teatime Collective have stopped doing pizza - which they may be starting up again next year). It's also one of the only places in the City Centre that I feel comfortable going out for a good quality fancy formal meal out, such as for a birthday meal. Dough use good quality vegan cheese, and has gluten free pizza dough as well. They also do vegan cheesy garlic bread. Given that lots of pizza places do vegan pizza bases and most are happy to use any vegan cheese you bring in yourself, I wouldn't automatically say that these pizzas are any better than that option (feel free to disagree). What really was the star of this restaurant was their desserts menu, which when it started out used to offer great vegan options, possibly the best in Manchester. They were provided by Lily & Dilly, a Manchester-based cake company. This included my favourite, vegan chocolate peanut butter brownies with vegan ice cream. However, to save money Dough changed their menu and started making their own desserts, and they aren't as great. Recently however they've changed and apparently improved, but I haven't yet tried them. Still not a bad place to eat out.

Website: http://www.doughpizzakitchen.co.uk/

4. Go Falafel

This is just for the City Centre location of Go Falafel, not the Rusholme branch. Go Falafel just made it into my top 10 vegan places in Manchester. The City Centre location closes at 10pm while the Rusholme location stays open until 2am. Go Falafel is one of my favourite places to go for smoothies and juices. I've also just discovered that it does great salads as well, but what it's really known for is falafel. It does the best falafel wraps in the city centre. Go Falafel is 100% vegan. Brilliant, cheap, fast vegan falafel takeaway food.

Website: http://gofalafel.co.uk/

3. Soup Kitchen, Spear Street

Soup Kitchen is a bar, a cafe and a music venue all in one. Beware that this place also serves meat, so if that's not your thing best not to go here. Yes, this didn't make my top 10 vegan places in Manchester but is higher than Go Falafel. This is because Go Falafel has a location in Rusholme so overall I'd rank to 2 together higher than just Soup Kitchen on it's own. The fact that this is a bar that has live music on downstairs and often DJs upstairs in the evening means that it can get busy and noisy in the evenings. During the day however, this place is a quiet place to have good food. They tend to serve food until 9 or 10pm so if you want a late meal that's not an expensive restaurant, this is the place for you. They offer jacket potatoes with vegan fillings, various curries, salads, sandwiches, fritters and cakes all with vegan options.

Website: http://soup-kitchen.co.uk/

2. Earth Cafe, Turner Street

Earth Cafe made No 7 in my top 10 vegan places in Manchester, and has been a long stable favourite of mine in Manchester. Earth is 100% vegan, except for offering cow's milk in tea or coffee. Earth Cafe offers a range of salads, curries, chillies, pies, soups and burgers. They also offer amazing vegan cake (some of which is raw) and juices & smoothies. Apart from perhaps busy Saturday afternoons, there's more than enough space for you to get a table to sit at. I've been going to this place for longer than I've lived in Manchester and is one of the longest standing vegetarian cafes in Manchester.

Website: http://www.earthcafe.co/

1. V Revolution, Oldham Street

Obviously you knew this would be my number one. V Revolution made No 3 in my top 10 vegan places in Manchester, because it is awesome. V Revolution is the place in Manchester for vegan junk food. If you want vegan milkshake ice cream floats, go to V Rev. If you want vegan cheese chicken bacon burgers, go to V Rev. If you want vegan hotdogs, go to V Rev. If you want to buy vegan cheese, go to V Rev. If you want to buy awesome vegan chocolate, go to V Rev. Just go there already. Every single thing here is 100% vegan. They will be moving early next year to another much larger location in the Northern Quarter with a larger menu and I cannot wait! They will even be open until midnight.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vrevolutionuk

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Top 10 vegan places in Manchester 2015

It's been 2 years since I made my blog post about my top 10 places for vegans in Manchester. You can view it here: Manchester's top 10 vegan friendly places.. Quite a few things have changed in those 2 years. Sadly 2 places on that list have closed down or relocated out of Manchester - Safad and Anand's Vegetarian Deli (now in Bolton). A few new places have opened which is really exciting, and a lot of existing places have just been getting better and better. I genuinely believe Manchester to be one of the best places in England for vegans. I will be doing further lists of either specific types of vegan friendly places or cover specific areas of Manchester in the future but, as of November 2015 here are my top 10 vegan friendly places in Manchester:

10. Go Falafel, City Centre & Rusholme

The first new addition to this list, and the first to be a chain. This is a 100% vegan chain with just 2 locations, first in the city centre just outside of Piccadilly Gardens, sort of on the way to Piccadilly train station. The second location is at the beginning of curry mile in Rusholme and replaces Annand's Vegetarian Deli (which is now in Bolton) as the only Rusholme location on this list. Basically, this is a takeaway that does vegan falafel wraps and salads and the best juices and smoothies fresh in front of you. Really quick service and fairly cheap as well. Perfect for when you're in a rush and need to grab something cheap to eat. Since Safad closed down I'd probably tie this joint first for falafel in Manchester with Falafel also in Rusholme.

Website: http://gofalafel.co.uk/

9. Mod's Veggie Cafe at Thirsty Scholar, City Centre/Oxford Road

Situated just off Oxford Road, 2 minutes away from Oxford Road train station, Mod's Cafe at Thirsty Scholar is one of the longest running vegetarian places in Manchester (if you also count the previous locations of the cafe) and has been somewhere I've been visiting since before I even moved to Manchester. It has been the venue for Manchester Vegan Society meetings and Christmas meals for years and years. In the last few years, it has been holding a monthly Meat-Free Mondays rice & 3 (where you get rice and 3 different portions of curry for a set price, various places in Manchester do this). If you're into cheap decent simple vegan pub grub then this is the place for you.

Thirsty Scholar website: http://www.thirstyscholar.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MODSVEGGIEVEGANCAFE

8. Sanskruti Restaurant, Withington

Another new addition to this list is Sanskrurti, a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Withington. I believe it was opened in 2013 to my memory (correct me if I'm wrong). At the time there were only a small handful of evening restaurants that were any good for vegans in Manchester, especially for formal meals out so this sort of thing was sorely needed. This is the only place I've ever visited that serves vegan korma! Everything here is vegetarian and they label all vegan options, and even have vegan deserts. Ideal if you're in the mood for South Indian foods. If you don't know Withington very well it can be difficult to find, especially travelling by bus. It's a 5 or so minute walk from Mauldeth Road train station however.

Website: http://sanskrutirestaurant.co.uk/

7. Earth Cafe, City Centre

Another long-standing vegetarian cafe in Manchester that I've been visiting since before moving to Manchester. Really good wholesome food freshly prepared. A good selection of salads, curries, roasts, cake, and juices. The specials here change almost daily. It's 100% vegan, with the exception of offering cow's milk in hot drinks. Plenty of gluten free options as well. Situated in the heart of the Northern Quarter, Earth is ideal if you're spending time in the City Centre, either after a long day shopping or before an evening out.

Website: http://www.earthcafe.co/

6. Fuel Cafe Bar, Withington

Arguably the best vegan home made pub grub in Manchester. Fuel is a vegetarian cafe situated in the centre of Withington, and is a bar, a cafe and a venue all in one. The upstairs is used a lot for all sorts of events from quiz nights to gigs. For a long time, this was one of the only places to eat out for vegans in the evening, and you could argue is still one of the best places for vegans to go out for a light bite to eat and a drink out with friends. Fuel is also home to one of the best vegan breakfasts in Manchester. I will do a top 10 vegan breakfasts in Manchester list at some point, and Fuel will come up high on that list.

Website: http://fuelcafebar.tumblr.com/

5. 8th Day Supermarket & Cafe, University/Oxford Road

8th Day is one of my favourite places in Manchester and massively shaped my experiences of Manchester as a teenager and young student. 8th Day was the first workers co-operative I had discovered, the first vegetarian supermarket and the second vegetarian cafe. Upstairs is a reasonably sized supermarket full of all sorts of really ethically sourced goods, most of which are vegan. Discovering 8th Day allowed me to boycott Holland & Barrett as I could get vegan cheeses and meats and chocolates from a much more ethical business with frankly a larger selection. The deli at the supermarket has a large selection of pasties and pies that can be warmed up as well as cake, so I frequently had lunch here. Downstairs is a good quality cafe. The cafe is not too dissimilar to Earth, in that it serves really wholesome food and amazing vegan cake. The cafe also does one of my favourite vegan breakfasts in Manchester, if not my favourite. Manchester Animal Action, Manchester Vegan Society and Manchester Vegetarian and Vegan Group have all held their monthly meetings here. Really worth a visit.

Website: http://8thday.coop/

4. Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, Withington

Lotus. The highest placed new entry into this list, and well worthy of it. If my memory is correct, this opened in early 2014 (correct me if I'm wrong). In my opinion this is the best place to eat out for an evening meal in Greater Manchester and possibly beyond. Lotus is a vegetarian Chinese restaurant with amazing vegan fake meats. They do the best vegan king prawns, prawn toast, spare ribs, beef, fish and duck I have ever come across. Trust me, this place is amazing. They do lunchtime offers as well. There is basically no excuse not to visit this place. I would not be surprised if in 5 years time this restaurant has moved to a larger premises, on a weekend both downstairs and upstairs are pretty full. It is a little bit expensive, but that's to be expected from a posh restaurant for evening meals - so think of spending possibly £15-£20+ on a meal out with drinks, but I promise you it is well worth it.

Website: http://www.lotusvegetariankitchen.com/

3. V Revolution, Northern Quarter, City Centre

V Revolution has become one of the most famous vegan cafes in the country, and not without merit. If since turning vegan you miss fast food and other junk foods, this is the place for you. Brilliant vegan double bacon cheeseburgers. Wonderful vegan ice cream milkshake floats. A range of vegan sweets and chocolates and cheeses that will blow you away. Their current location is on Oldham Street (my favourite street in Manchester, home to the shop Vinyl Exchange (second hand record shop), Afflecks Palace, Rockers as well as the venues Night & Day, Gullivers and Castle Hotel and much more) and after roughly 3 or 4 years there, in early 2016 they are planning to move about a 5 minute walk away, closer to the city centre but still in the Northern Quarter. The new location will have much larger kitchen facilities and so they will be able to offer an expanded menu and will be able to serve food even quicker. I'm most looking forward to the addition of chips, something they have sorely missed from their current menu. I believe they will also have a larger seating area, which is great because on a Saturday afternoon V Rev can be pretty busy.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vrevolutionuk

2. Teatime Collective, Hulme

Located in Hulme, Teatime Collective is an entirely vegan cafe. Since my last top 10 vegan places in Manchester Teatime have given up offering cow's milk so are now 1000% vegan, which is amazing news! In a way, this is quite similar to V Revolution in the fact that it mostly serves vegan junk food, but there are some notable differences. The menu is larger and changes more frequently. Most things are made from scratch, including their own vegan ice cream parlour, cakes, pies and much more! They also cater outside events such as festivals, and on occasions will stay open late into the evening for private bookings, for example during Christmas time they do a special Christmas menu and if you've got a minimum of 8 people you can book out the cafe for the evening. You can also order specialised cake from them for your friend's birthday.

Website: http://www.teatimecollective.co.uk/

1. Unicorn Grocery Workers' Cooperative, Chorlton

If you know me, you'll know how highly I value Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton. This is my favourite food shop that I've ever visited. Unicorn is one of the largest workers' coops in the country, which is one of my favourite things about this place. Every permanent member of staff owns the business, receives the same hourly wage, is a director of the business and has an equal say in how the business runs. The shop is an entirely vegan supermarket, with all their products sourced as ethically as they can. The shop is perfect for buying vegan wholefoods to cook with at home. It has pretty much most things you could want for your average weekly shop, and at affordable prices too. In the last 2 years, they have expanded their second floor (which just had offices and staff rooms) a lot and built a brand new kitchen in there. As well as a deli, Unicorn stocks a large range of vegetables, fruits, wholefoods, bread, condiments, groceries, household products, alcohol, juices and more. Situated about a 5 minute walk from Chorlton tram stop, which is about a 20 minute tram journey into Manchester City Centre.

Website: http://www.unicorn-grocery.coop/

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

2015 Young Greens Co-Chairs Election - why I am supporting Chris Jarvis and Hannah Clare

Every year the Young Greens elect their National Executive Committee, their Structures & Procedures Committee, and the Co-chairs of the Regional Senate. I've been an active Young Green for over 5 years now, and every year the election to these national bodies gets better and better with more and better experienced people putting themselves forward for selection. I honestly believe that for the Co-Chairs of Young Greens, we have by far the best and tightest election ever. Five amazing, experienced, dedicated and talented members have put themselves forward. I would be proud to call any of them Co-chair of the youth wing of the party I belong to. However, I am backing Chris Jarvis and Hannah Clare as my first 2 choices for Co-chairs, and this is why.

Chris Jarvis

Chris Jarvis is someone I first met at the Young Greens convention in Sheffield in 2012, and have seen him at conventions and national party conferences ever since - longer than any other candidate standing in this election. As a student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) he ran a food co-operative, spent over a year as President of the Young Greens student society and a further year as Equality & Diversity Co-ordinator. Not only was he secretary of the University's People & Planet society, but he was also the People & Planet South East Regional Organiser. He has been elected twice onto UEA's Student's Union officers as Campaigns & Democracy Officer. Chris also has experience being on the Young Greens NEC, having previously been the Membership Support Officer.

Chris is intensely dedicated to the Green Party, the Young Greens and the eco-socialist cause. He has the experience and drive to take the Young Greens forward, and is exactly what we need. He also happens to be vegan as well so gains extra points from me!

Hannah Clare

Hannah first got involved in politics when she joined the UK Youth Parliament when she was still in high school. While at University she became chair of the debating union, and later of Liverpool Young Greens. She's been active in the Green Party for the last 2 and a half years, being on both her local party's committee and her regional party's committee as well. In the Young Greens I have had the pleasure of working with her when she became the first ever co-convenor of Young Greens North in 2013, which she has done for 2 whole years. During that 2 years she has been responsible for setting up and running the Young Greens Regional Senate. During the 2015 General Election she represented the Young Greens on an online TV debate/hustings for the BBC with the leaders of the youth wings for all the other major parties in the UK, and she did a brilliant job.

Hannah has committed herself to standing up for disadvantaged and minority groups in the party, and I believe she will continue to do this as co-chair of the Young Greens. She has excellent debating skills, something which we desperately need from our representatives.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The future of the Green Party

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted on this blog. I do intend to start posting on here more often in the future though!

If you haven't heard about the #GreenSurge then let me tell you all about it. Last October-ish the BBC along with ITV and Channel 4 announced that they had no intentions of inviting the Green Party to the leaders debates, yet they would invite UKIP. The Green Party published an e-petition on Change.Org calling to be included on the live TV leaders debates, which gained over quarter of a million signatures in just 2 or 3 months. A couple of months later Ofcom announced that the Green Party would be classed as a minor party, while UKIP would be classed as a major party, despite the Greens having elected an MP for 4 years before UKIP received defected MPs from the Tories. This gave the TV broadcasters even more reason to exclude the Greens from the debates. This caused an outcry amongst left-leaning voters who oppose the politics of UKIP. Tens of thousands of people joined the party. Membership now sits around the 55,000 mark, which is above both UKIP and the Lib-Dems which makes us the 4th largest party in the country. In Scotland, the Scottish Greens got a massive surge in members following the independence referendum and more than doubled their membership in something like 2 weeks. They went from around 2,000 members before the referendum to over 7,000 members now. This means that the majority of Green Party members were not Green Party members at the last Green Party conference. In opinion polls the Green Party has been getting between 6-10% and frequently beating the Lib-Dems which is an improvement from the 2-5% we were getting about a year ago. In this post I want to talk about how I'm feeling about this surge in members and the potential futures of the party.

Now Until the General Election:
I predict just one thing until the day of the general election, and that is small further growth and steady media coverage. We are at about 55,000 members and I see that rising to 65,0000-70,000 members perhaps, maybe even just 60,000 members. We will be on 2 of the 3 leaders debates and I predict that the public will have mixed responses to it, but we will overall gain more supporters than we would had we not been on the debates. The party intends to stand in every seat in the general election and as a result we will receive a heck of a lot of extra media attention that we did not receive at the last general election. The party is realistically targeting to win in 3 seats (Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South and Bristol West) and has several lesser target seats spread throughout the country. The party is likely to stand in a record number of local election seats as well. What will happen on and after polling day is yet to be seen. For arguments sake, for the following predictions I am assuming that all that our possible number of MPs will do is as Caroline Lucas has been doing over the last 5 years, supporting or opposing issues on a case by case basis and refusing to enter any coalition government. Remember, this is all just my opinion and mostly speculation. Anything could happen in reality.

Possible scenario no.1: Greens do very well:
In this outcome, the Greens receive 5 or more seats as some members are predicting at the general election. The party keeps deposits in over 50% of seats. National share of the vote could be as high as 10%. The surge continues and we could potentially reach 100,000 members by the end of the year including members of different parties including Labour, the Lib-Dems, and other parties to the left of the Tories. Now, the more members who join, especially in a sudden surge as opposed to gradual growth, the more diverse views and opinions will be within the party. There will be calls for changes to the party as new members will be likely to expect the party to challenge to run local councils and by 2020 to be in a position to be in the next government, even if that is a minority party in a coalition. I'm already hearing calls from new members for the party to get rid of our more radical policies in order to be more presentable to the electorate. If we get another surge in members this call may only increase. Over the next 5 years the party gains seats all over the country and has a less radical vision than it has had. Members on the left of the party leave and potentially join other parties such as Left Unity, who in turn have their own small surge and become more of a force in British politics.

If this happens, the party will change its rules to become a less democratic party, or at least a less directly democratic party and a more elected representatively democratic party starting with introducing delegate conferences where your local party has to elect you as a delegate before you can come and vote at conferences. More and more power within the party will become centralised with the leaders, executive, paid staff and other committees making more decisions without first consulting the wider membership. I can already see this happening with Natalie Bennett setting the agenda for the party by choosing what she talks about in interviews. Essentially the party heads towards the general direction that the Lib-Dems were in perhaps 10 years ago, compromising on more radical left-wing policies, centralising power & influence within the party and appealing to a broad range of disaffected left-learning middle class Guardian reading voters. I think the likelihood of this outcome will be moderately low, I don't think we will receive as many as 5 seats in the general election.

Possible scenario no.2: Greens receive 3 seats:
So in this scenario the Greens gain 2 extra seats in the general election and therefore triple their seats in the commons. The surge continues but not as quickly as has happened. Many people feel that the Greens are not so likely to make a major breakthrough in British politics . Membership reaches over 100,000 within a year or two or perhaps a little longer. The party has less influence in Parliament than scenario 1 and has more freedom to be radical. As a result the Green Party keeps more members on the left of the party and starts to be taken more seriously by those on the left outside of the Green Party. As with scenario 1, the new members call for many changes to the party but these changes are less of a shift towards the centre. In general this scenario is the middle ground between scenario 1 where we lose our radical focus too quickly and the next scenario which will involve continuing our slow-ish gradual gain in seats and influence on British politics but no major surge. This scenario will still involve many members calling for compromises in order to become more electable but this will be slowed down by a higher percentage of the membership favouring the more radical left-wing policies. There will be internal struggles between polarised sections of the membership, with some members eventually leaving the party on both the left and the right of the party. I see this scenario as a compromise between the gradual, slow, but radical influence on British politics and the quick growth and shedding of our radical roots by too much compromise.

Until a few months ago when the surge began I felt this was an incredibly unlikely scenario, but given that we have had a big surge in members, we are going to be in the leaders debates and get a much increased media presence and we have had a significant rise in the polls, these 3 seats in Brighton, Norwich and Bristol could well be ours. I'm still not entirely convinced that we will get all three, but it could happen.

Possible scenario no.3: Caroline gets re-elected:
In this scenario Caroline Lucas gets re-elected but we don't gain any new MPs. I see this as the most likely outcome. With this scenario, we gain a few members, we lose a few members who felt we would gain seats, but in general we carry on slow growth that we had before the surge. This scenario makes me the most excited (perhaps along with scenario 2) because I feel this will give us the time needed to develop and mature into a sustainable major party. While surges are great, they aren't without their problems. The larger the party becomes the more difficult it is to have an open and direct democracy and having a slower growth will allow us the time to shape and test our democracy with a larger membership base. This scenario would allow us to remain as radical as we have been and will involve a lot less compromise than the first 2 scenarios. It will also be a period in which we really convince many members to remain with us for the foreseeable future. What I mean by this is that the members who stay in the party and work within the party are more likely to stay in the party for the long run. They are less likely to leave because we have compromised too much or because we have lost seats. As a result our candidates become more experienced and cemented in Green Party 'ideology' (for want of a better word). I'm really excited about this possibility.

Possible scenario no.4: No Green MPs:
We lose our only MP and we don't gain any new MPs. Members gradually leave until we're at roughly where we were before the surge (roughly 20,000 members), or perhaps a bit higher, maybe 30,000 members. Our influence in politics declines a little, we start receiving less media coverage and we have less resources than before. This isn't actually the end of the world for the party, it is still a much better position than we were in before the 2010 general election. We will still have more members and more elected representatives than we have had in recent years. This scenario could go two ways - we could build the party and still become a significant force in politics, just a lot slower than the other scenarios - or we could fall apart, members leave and join other parties who see a mini-surge and we gradually decline until we're no longer electable as has happened with far right parties like the BNP and National Front who have never recovered from the great plunge. I think it is a reasonably realistic outcome that we could end up with no seats, but I am more convinced that we will have at least 1 MP. However, this requires work. We need to work hard between now and the general election to give the Greens the best possible chance of gaining seats.

Well, those are my thoughts about potential outcomes. Really exciting but also really daunting as we're entering unknown territory. Let me know about what you think is most likely to happen in the party.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Bicycle transport in Manchester

As a follow up to last week's post about public transport in Greater Manchester, let's talk about my favourite form of transport - bicycling. Bicycles are by far the most environmentally friendly way of travel (other than walking and running) and they keep you fit and healthy. As the phrase goes: One runs on money and makes you fat [car], one runs on fat and saves you money [bicycle]. I ride my bike almost every day, it's my transport to work. I couldn't do without cycling.

Why do I have such a big need for cycling? Well for me, since I don't drive, it is the only way I can get to work on time. Buses don't run early enough for me to get to work for 7am or run late enough for me to get home from work after 11:30pm. And if I was to travel to work via buses, I would have to take 2 buses to get there. Obviously, this can be solved by having a much better bus network. However, cycling is quicker than taking the bus. Even when following the routes of buses I am always quicker than buses due to buses stopping every few minutes for a minute or two to pick up passengers. It's £4 a day for a day rider of the bus and can be more expensive on the trams, and when you're earning around £10 from Job Seeker's Allowance as I was until recently, you can rarely afford to use public transport. Again, that can be solved by changing the public transport system. However it is still less costly both in money and in other resource terms if people travelled by bicycle than by public transport. It can also be quicker, especially for inner city travel.

Why do I believe there is a need for cycling throughout wider society? Well, along with improved public transport, bicycling is a key part in reducing reliance on cars. In the UK, most people own a car. In the world as a whole it's only roughly 14% of people who own a car, so cars are a massive luxury, yet people in Britain today take them for granted as something we have the right to own. Ultimately it is unsustainable for everyone to have a car and use it every single day. I recognise that some people have the need for a car (people who need it for work, some disabled people) and that there is a need to transport more items than you can carry on a bike or a public transport system so I am not opposed to completely getting rid of all cars. People still have transport needs, and I firmly believe bicycling can play an important role in achieving our transport needs. Bicycles, apart from being slower and having less storage to transport things, is as flexible as travelling by car. Unlike public transport you can travel from wherever you want to wherever you want whenever you want. You don't need to find a bus or rail stop, you don't need to wait for a bus or train or tram, and you don't need to pay a fee to travel. The fact that once you've paid for the bike, cycling is pretty much cost free and for lots of people that will mean they are pulled out of transport poverty.

So what's the situation with cycling in Manchester? Well for a long time not a lot happened. There are lots of bicycle lanes throughout the city, but most of them have been poorly looked after and often have cars parked on them. There are a few decent off-bike cycle paths such as the Fallowfield Loop, which while is great, has no lighting so is not used after dark, which in winter will mean people cannot cycle home on it. However, over the last few years some things have really started to happen. Last year the council and Transport for Greater Manchester opened up the Bike Hub, a storage space in the heart of the city centre where people can pay to keep their bike stored while they're at work with shower and changing facilities to wash the sweat away before going to work. However, it costs quite a high monthly fee to use this service and will only suit people who are in well paid jobs, but I suppose as it's making money for the council I don't have an issue with it so much. There are plans to make Oxford Road and some roads in the city centre for bicycle, bus and taxi use only, with segregated bike lanes and "floating bus stops" where the bike lanes travel behind bus stops so bicycles no longer need to overtake buses at their stops. This is a great development and will at least make lots of students feel confident to cycle. There are possible plans for a copy of the London "Boris Bikes" whereby people rent bikes from various points around the city and drop the bike back off at any of these points. Again, like with the Bike Hub I don't think this will do a huge amount to help improve things for people who have little money. There are plans to increase cycle parking at public transport stops, and this has started happening. There is now a new bike shelter at Oxford Road train station and I believe more of these are planned at bus stations, train stations and tram stops.

The problem with these things is they are only a small drop in the ocean. Massive changes need to take place to really make Manchester a cycling city. Bike hubs, the odd few streets with better cycle lanes and a few more bike rails at existing rail stops is not going to have that much of an impact because cycling will still be inaccessible for the vast majority of people. Here's what I believe needs to happen to really make our city a true cycling city:

  • Make our roads, cycle paths, park paths, etc free of potholes so cyclists can have smooth rides without fear of punctures and buckled wheels (happened to me far too many times to remember).
  • Really visible, entirely painted, well maintained, segregated if possible bike lanes throughout the whole cycle. Most cycle lanes are not well painted or maintained and are ignored by motor transport.
  • Decent quality bike rails for parking, angled so that bikes of all heights can use them easily, in well lit visible locations throughout the entire city. Sheltered from the rain is possible. Covered by CCTV so that people can leave their bikes without fearing of it getting stolen. Lots more of these are neededs. Make it mandatory to have a good number of bike rails on high streets, outside shopping centres and retail parks.
  • Allow bicycles on the Metrolink trams. This may require new carriages with bicycle storage so could be a longer term aim. This already happens in many cities throughout the world so I see no reason why this cannot happen in Manchester, and would lead to more people using the Metrolink and buying tickets. Also look into the possibility of having bikes on buses in rural areas as they do in the Lake District. 
  • Properly enforce parking regulations like double yellow lines so that cars are not always parked on bike lanes, making it more dangerous for cyclists. Fining people who park on double yellow lines is one of the only effective ways I see this happening, which will make more money for the council. It will also mean hiring more parking inspectors.
  • Better road systems in general. Sometimes having two general lanes makes it difficult to also have a bike lane, sometimes two lanes makes it better for cyclists. Sometimes one-way roads make it difficult for cyclists, sometimes one-way roads are essential for cyclists.
  • Better car parking. I know this might seem like a backwards step (yeah, it probably is), but cars parking on bike lanes is a really bike problem, and perhaps there is no other solution than to create parking spaces elsewhere for those cars. Not too much though.
  • Provide many free regular bicycle training sessions throughout the whole city. These could start off with cycling around a park, and could build up to cycling on roads to get new cyclists more confidence to ride on the roads. These could also include how to fix your bike.
There are also lots of things that need to happen nationally to make cycling better for all people:
  • Better education in schools on cycling issues. Make it a bigger part of the curriculum.
  • Tax-free bikes full stop. Discriminating against those out of work or those in work places without a tax-free bike system is not the right approach to tackling transport poverty. If planes do not have to pay tax on their fuel, why are bicycles taxed? No more VAT on bikes please! (Well, I think we should scrap VAT altogether but that's another blog post).
  • Better education about the rights and safety of cyclists in general. Every council should have information on what rights cyclists have on the roads. Driving tests should involve more about the rights and safety of cyclists. I'd even like to see TV adverts promoting the safety of cyclists.
  • Improved cycle storage on trains, so that we don't need to book in advance on certain services. Allow bikes on the Eurostar so that people can take their bikes to and from mainland Europe. I got the train recently all the way to Berlin, and if you could get your bike on the Eurostar from London to Paris I could have taken my bike all the way from Manchester to Berlin.
  • Invest in the National Cycle Network, creating tons of new off-road cycle routes. But please do make them suitable for road bikes.
  • Raise minimum wage to at least a living wage, scrap VAT, replace council tax with an addition to income tax, scrap tuition fees, close tax loops, make tax more egalitarian with more and steeper tax bands. Basically create a more equal society. This will mean more people who currently can only afford to pay £12 for a weekly bus pass will be able to afford spending £300+ in one go on a bicycle and buy accessories for the bike. It will also provide more than enough tax to fund all of this.
How can you get involved in improving cycling in Manchester? The last Friday of every month, meeting at Manchester Central Library at 6:00pm for a 6:30pm start is Critical Mass! Please come down and be a part of the biggest cycling movement in perhaps the whole north of England. Attend one of the many bike Fridays where people cycle to city centre from different parts of the city. Support the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign. Support your local independent bicycle shop. Most importantly - get out on your bike, talk to your friends and work colleagues about cycling and be an ambassador for cycling.

More info:

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Heavy rail vs light rail vs buses. The Greater Manchester public transport debate.

Since public transport in Greater Manchester has changed quite a bit over the years and is set to change a lot again over the next few years I thought I'd weigh up the pros and cons of each type of public transport and give my views on what changes I'd like to see across Greater Manchester. Heavy rail is getting a lot of investment in Manchester with the Northern Hub, a grand project to improve links between cities in the North by a combination of methods including adding 2 new platforms at Piccadilly station, modernising and improving Victoria and Oxford Road train stations and electrifying lines between Manchester and other cities. The Metrolink tram system has had massive expansion in recent years and is set for a whole lot more expansion in the near future linking up more bits of Greater Manchester with, well, Manchester City Centre. There are planned changes for buses as well including making various busy roads in the City Centre only for buses, bikes and taxis. But which method of transport is the best solution to provide the transport needs for the people of Greater Manchester?

The need for better public transport links in Greater Manchester

While I will accept that Manchester has some of the best public transport link in the entire region, there is still a need and a demand for further improvements. A large metropolitan area such as Greater Manchester has many diverse transport needs. From people commuting to work at 6 am or earlier, to elderly people travelling to the local shops, to people going to any of the wide range of events, concerts, pubs, clubs, theatres and restaurants that Manchester has to offer. When I go out to watch bands live my last bus home is around 11:15 pm, which means that sometimes I have to leave the gig early to catch the bus and makes it difficult to stay out late. For people who work in the early hours of the morning or late at night sometimes there just isn't transport available at those hours and people often rely on taxis. Transport between east and west of south Manchester is terrible, I myself would have to catch 2 buses to get to work when it only takes me 15 minutes to travel by bicycle. It's actually often quicker for me to walk the 40 minutes to work than to wait for a bus. Transport in Manchester is largely focussed on getting people to and from Manchester City Centre and as a result transport between the different parts of Greater Manchester suffers. Improvements to public transport routes would make it possible for more people to travel further afield for work, shopping and leisure. A lack of transport is significant contributor towards poverty and lower standards of living. Manchester has some of the poorest areas in the country, and people often cannot afford to own and run a car and depend on public transport. Job Seekers are really restricted in the jobs they can apply for and the interviews they can attend when they are reliant on public transport. I really believe access to affordable, reliable and frequent public transport is key to a vibrant, thriving and happy city. It is also a key contributor towards reaching emission targets to combat climate change. The economic benefits are massive with more people able to travel for work and leisure with more spare money to spend at the same time. It will also attract more tourists at the same time who can visit the many attractions Greater Manchester has to offer.

Heavy rail transport

Trains have always been one of my favourite methods of transport. I love trains and train journeys. I've always wanted to see improvements to the rail network and extra lines opened as trains really do solve so many transport needs. I do think that trains are the best method of transport for travelling between cities and large towns. Build a new train station in a town that doesn't have one and you really are bringing a lot of people out of transport poverty. They're quick and efficient, and are cheaper than owning and travelling by car. Travelling between cities and large towns also enables trains to get to high speeds. Once the network has all been electrified, trains will be running at speeds up to 90 MPH. This is really great and efficient for travelling between cities but not as great for travelling to different parts of the same city. I do think they still hold an important part of inner city travel though. I used to live in Withington, about a 10 minute walk to Mauldeth Road train station, and from that station it was roughly an 11 minute journey to Piccadilly station, a big improvement on the 30 minutes it takes on the bus. A lot of the train lines to the airport, Stockport and parts of Cheshire stop at various parts of east Manchester such as Gorton, Levenshulme, Burnage and East Didsbury. Having these train stops in these places drastically cuts down travel time between those places and the city centre, as well as the other stops on those lines. It can also be cheaper if all you are doing is travelling only between places on those lines. There are some pretty big downsides to rail transport within the city though. Firstly, the lines are not well connected. If you live in Burnage and want to travel to Levenshulme or any stop on the same line as Levenshulme, which includes stops to Stockport and Crewe as well as stops to Buxton you have to change at Manchester Piccadilly. Connecting the lines via rail transport alone would be very difficult and would not be financially viable while travelling by bus between the lines adds a lot of time and cost onto the journey. The second big disadvantage is that unless your station is on a popular line, or various lines then train times will be fairly infrequent, relatively speaking. For example there are only 2 trains an hour between Burnage and Manchester Piccadilly. This greatly increases waiting times, and there isn't a huge amount that can be viably done to improve this as it is difficult to increase the capacity of big train lines. There also is a limit to the number of stations on these lines meaning that some people living on the line live reasonably far away from their nearest train station.

Some of the improvements to the rail services are great. The Northern Hub, the main rail improvement planned in Greater Manchester, in general will bring massive benefits to Manchester. The project is designed to reduce problems caused by what is known as the 'Manchester bottleneck' by increasing capacity of stations in Manchester and reducing journey times. Once the Northern Hub is completed journey times between Manchester and Preston/Blackpool, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and places in between will be reduced partly due to electrifying lines between cities so that trains can run at faster speeds. How much quicker will train journeys be? Well the 47 minute journey to Liverpool Lime Street will be reduced to 30 minutes, the 54 minute journey between Leeds and Manchester will be reduced to 40 minutes while journey times between Manchester and Chester will fall from 1 hour 3 minutes to 40 minutes. With capacity at both Piccadilly station (which is getting 2 new platforms that are not terminus) and Victoria station being increased, an extra 2 trains per hour between Manchester and Leeds and Liverpool will be running. For those who commute between cities for work this will bring great improvements to their lives, and will even make it possible for more people to be able to commute. A route between Piccadilly and Victoria stations is being build, the Ordsall Chord. This will enable some lines to stop at Victoria, onwards to Piccadilly (via Deansgate and Oxford Road) and potentially finishing at the airport. Piccadilly, Victoria, Oxford Road, Salford Cresent and Manchester Airport stations are all getting improvements. Piccadilly and Manchester Airport are getting new platforms while Victoria (voted the worst train station in the UK in 2009) is getting a massive facelift which includes new shops and a brand new modern roof. The main disadvantage I can see from the Northern Hub is that a lot of services, particularly Liverpool to Leeds/York via Manchester will be switched from Piccadilly station to Victoria station, partly in order to further reduce journey times and to increase overall capacity of both stations. The problem with this at the moment is that Piccadilly station has a lot more transport links than Victoria and so is easier to get to for a lot of people. However, links to Victoria are improving and as Victoria becomes more used it will become more viable for buses and trams to better serve Victoria station.

While we're talking about heavy rail, it's important to mention HS2. HS2 needs to be scrapped. There is a desperate need for investment in our rail network, but there is no desperate need for shorter journeys from Manchester or Birmingham to London. Spending those billions on either opening new rail lines, electrification of more existing lines or increasing the capacity of existing lines in other ways is what's really needed and what will really help people who need to travel by train. Let's not also forget that HS2 may well lead to other nearby areas losing services to London, such as Crewe and Liverpool where HS2 will not be going to.

Light rail/trams/The Metrolink

I recently spent a week in Berlin. Berlin has amazing public transport services - heavy trains, light trains, underground trains and buses. Looking at the routes in the Berlin transport network, it reminded me of both London and Manchester. Manchester is the only place in the UK outside of London which has a big and expanding light rail network, the Manchester Metrolink. There are major differences between the transport network in Berlin and Manchester though as you'd obviously expect. Greater Manchester has one major city with one single city centre surrounded by commuter towns with their town centres, and major transport links mostly focus in linking the smaller towns up with the larger city via the city centre. Berlin, like London, doesn't have just one small area it can call it's 'city centre'. Like London, Berlin is more like a collection of towns each with their own communities and unique town/city centres so transport routes are more diverse. In Greater Manchester this leads to one big issue with the light rail network - all the  lines on the Metrolink are just between one part of Greater Manchester and Manchester City Centre. There is no linking up different parts of Greater Manchester together, unless of course it is on the way to Manchester City Centre. You can of course change at Manchester City Centre and get on another line and go somewhere else in Greater Manchester, but the detour via city centre makes the journey often a lot longer and more expensive. What I would like to see with the Metrolink is greater connections between parts of Greater Manchester, and I see that as it's greatest potential strength. Light rail is somewhere between heavy rail and buses in terms of journey times versus frequency of stops. The more stops a public transport method has, the more accessible it is, but also the slower it is. It is impossible to serve lots of inner city areas via rail and get to 90 MPH speeds that heavy rail can reach and is difficult to build lots of train stations close to one another, but I don't think this means we need to rely on buses for inner city transport. Light rail offers a faster way to travel than buses and a more frequent service than trains stopping at more stops along the way. Tram stops are much easier to build than train stations.

The Metrolink originally just served Bury to city centre and Altrincham to city centre when it opened in 1992. In 1999 the line connecting Eccles to the city centre via the existing Cornbrook stop opened. It stayed this way for a further 12 years until the South Manchester line was opened as far as Chorlton and St Werburgh's Road. This was part of a bigger plan to greatly expand the network over the next few years. Further 4 lines were planned to be opened within the following 5 years. Rochdale via Oldham line was opened in 2012. However, the Rochdale via Oldham line wasn't so much as an expansion of the rail network as a conversion from heavy rail to light rail. This was advantages and disadvantages. There are now lots more stops between Rochdale, Oldham and Manchester City Centre serving many people who lived far away from the original train stations, however journey times between Oldham and Manchester have significantly increased. Furthermore the people of Oldham were without a rail service for 3 years while the line was converted to light rail. In 2013 the South Manchester line was extended to East Didsbury and the line from Piccadilly to Ashton was opened. A line from Manchester Airport to the city centre via Wythenshawe and the existing St Werburgh's Road stop is due to open in 2015 but could open later in 2014. There are various proposed expansions of the Metrolink, most likely are the Trafford line, which will go from the Pomona stop (currently on the Eccles line) to the Trafford Centre via Trafford Park and extending the East Didsbury line to Stockport. There is also proposals for tram-trains to be introduced, where tram-trains can be used both on tram tracks and train tracks, and the possibilities that come with that idea are huge.

There are some disadvantages to light rail. Light rail, like heavy rail requires rail tracks to be built. While with light rail you can have tracks built on roads, that really restricts how effective the service is. If trams run on roads it restricts how frequent the trams are and slows down all other transport on the roads while the trams are running through. This means that light rail works best off-road and luckily Manchester still has a lot of it's old rail network that was closed after the Beeching report in the 1970s that can be used for the Metrolink. However even with various other off-road routes that Greater Manchester potentially has that still is not enough to full-fill all the transport needs. I could see potentially the councils and governments eventually making compulsory purchase orders on many disused or underused non-residential sites and also brownfield sites to expend the Metrolink system. Until then I don't see how lots of areas will be served by public transport without buses.

Something worth considering about heavy rail versus light rail is that light rail increases journey times between places because of lower speeds and increasing number of stops. Yes you can reach more people because of extra stops, but it greatly increases journey times between really populated areas. Take the East Didsbury line, Chorlton is by far the most popular stop on the line. I usually notice perhaps 30 or 40 people getting on at Chorlton whereas other stops might have about 10 people getting on. Journey times between Chorlton station and Market Street Metrolink stop are 16 minutes on the Metrolink whereas journey times between Levenshulme train station and Piccadilly station are only 5 minutes via train and is a similar distance. Would the East Didsbury line be better served as a heavy rail line with fewer stops and much less travel times? I'm not sure. If you just had 3 or 4 stops between East Didsbury and Deansgate rather than the current 10 stops you might be able to shorten that 16 minutes to 5 minutes perhaps, and perhaps that would be better. It would make it less accessible for hundreds if not thousands of people. Same goes for the Bury line. Before the Victoria Metrolink stop temporarily closed for refurbishment took about 23 minutes to get from Bury to Victoria train station on the Metrolink stopping at 9 stops in between. If it was a heavy rail line with perhaps no more than 3 or 4 stops between Bury and Victoria journey times might be reduced to perhaps only 12 or 15 minutes rather than 23 minutes. I'm undecided about what is overall more liberating to more people, shorter journey times in more populated areas and less services in less populated areas, or more services in less populated areas but longer journey times for people in well populated areas. Overall, considering that the alternative is buses the Metrolink is a nice balance between the two.

One thing that is interesting about the Manchester Metrolink is that it is nationalised. Sort of. It is operated by the RATP Group (RĂ©gie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) which is a French nationalised company owned by the French government. This makes me both happy and sad. I'm happy that some of the profit from the Metrolink is going to a public sector, I'm just saddened that we cannot make this a British public-owned and run company/industry so that the profits can be put back into public services in our own country. But public ownership of industries or certain industries is a whole other topic I may cover at another date on this blog. All I will say now is that there is a lot of profit and potential profit with public transport in the UK and I would much rather that profit was going to the public-sector so that government and councils have more money to spend on services that are useful to people rather than going to business owners, directors and shareholders. Or it could be invested into improving our public transport system, perhaps decreasing ticket fares.


Buses are the main form of transport in Greater Manchester that link up all the different areas in Greater Manchester. Most other forms of transport simply take you to Manchester City Centre. Buses are the easiest form of transport to expand as bus stops are easy and cheap to put up in almost any road. However buses are also the slowest of the main forms of public transport because they have to follow the normal traffic on the roads, traffic lights and there's usually a bus stop every few hundred metres, and sometimes they take long and winding routes. The fact that there are so many bus stops does make buses the most accessible in terms of how close you are to the service. The vast majority of people in Greater Manchester are within walking distance of their closest bus stop. However, buses are also know for being one of the most unreliable forms of public transport out there. Because they run on ordinary roads and only have their own bus lanes in highly populated areas close to town centres and city centres, and also because the driver has to stop at each stop and sell tickets to most of the passengers boarding means that it's much more difficult for buses to run on time. In large parts of Manchester, especially around Oxford Road/Wilmslow Road this isn't so much of an issue because at peak times there are several buses a minute. But for areas in Greater Manchester where there is only a couple of buses an hour, being 10 or 15 minutes late is a regular frustration and can even make people late for work.

There are plans to help reduce congestion and journey times around the city centre by making some of the roads for the use of buses, bicycles and taxis only. The plans include turning large sections of Oxford Road, particularly at the universities into bus, bicycle and taxi only roads, as well changing some roads in the city centre to allow better bus links between Piccadilly Gardens and Shudehill bus stations. Transport for Greater Manchester have produced 2 brilliant videos on the proposals. This video for the the proposed changes to Oxford Road:

The following video is on the proposed changes to the city centre:



It seems to me that a wide range of public transport methods are needed across Greater Manchester. Ultimately we need a well connected transport network with trains linking major populated areas such as cities and big towns, trams linking up as many significant parts of Greater Manchester as realistically possible and buses filling the gaps that cannot be filled by rail including connecting the different tram and train lines. An important change, if possible, to how the Metrolink works is allowing bicycles onto trams to help cyclists shorten their journey times. An area all forms of public transport needs is to provide more services, later services and earlier services. There is a clear demand for better public transport services late at night and early in the morning. So I want to see more heavy and light rail journeys being made so that people can save time and perhaps even money travelling to wherever it is that they need to go. While bus journeys do have their advantages, using buses for longer journeys takes a lot of time that could be cut by introducing more tram and even train lines. Currently around 80% of public transport journeys in Greater Manchester are on buses. It takes me half an hour to travel from Whalley Range where I live to city centre, that's an hour return trip, and Whalley Range isn't that far from the city centre. If I lived next to my closest tram stop, that would be cut by over a third to a 38 minute round trip giving me over 20 minutes more free time to enjoy life. I'm certain the same could be said for many tens or hundreds of thousands of people in Greater Manchester who would benefit massively from a better public transport system. Cyclists, pedestrians and even motorists would benefit from a better public transport system as well. Better public transport leads to less people using cars, which makes the roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians alike while reducing traffic jams and journey times for remaining motorists.

A huge factor in defeating transport poverty is to integrate the ticketing system into one smart card, similar to London's Oyster Card and simplify the pricing so that using multiple services does not become unaffordable. Currently it is cheaper to get a bus pass for one bus provider and to just use that bus service, whereas a connected transport network works best if people use a wide range of transport methods. If you can get a bus to your nearest tram or train station and use rail to get where you need to, that will ultimately save time. If we can have a smart card that has an upper limit on daily, weekly and monthly spending it will make this financially viable. Currently there are 2 different systems that run like this, the System One Travelcard, which is mostly for buses but can also be used on trains and trams, and the soon to be launched 'get me there'. The problem with System One Travelcards at the moment is that they are for passes only and I think they are only in paper ticket format. get me there launches this year for Metrolink users. Next year get me there will be available to use on buses, and at some point after that you will be able to use get me there cards for train journeys within Greater Manchester. I'm not sure how get me there will work out pricewise but I sure do hope it will drastically reduce travel costs. When it's fully finished it will be pretty much just like the Oyster card, but for Greater Manchester and System One Travelcards will stop being used in Greater Manchester. While I would like to see public transport be free for everyone, that is a massive challenge that first requires nationalisation of our public transport which I believe we are ready for. In the mean time to improve public transport it helps if there are economic benefits.