Planning for Sustainable Travel

Home Project Team CfIT

Key Contacts and Resources


Map of Greater Manchester


This Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) is a well-established network of ten local authorities that has operated since local government reorganisation in 1986 to enable strategic coordination across the Greater Manchester city region, with key functions including transport and forward planning.

The context for the AGMA has been strengthened in recent years by the emerging national policy emphasis on the city region spatial dimension for economic growth. Within the Greater Manchester conurbation, AGMA has been a central actor in an ongoing process of economic restructuring and placemaking, developing from a series of separate former industrial towns to an internationally competitive city region.

In support of Greater Manchester’s regeneration agenda, a Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) bid to Central Government was debated and developed between 2006 and 2008, including a congestion charging scheme. Although the charging scheme was rejected in a 2008 referendum, many of the associated transport infrastructure/traffic management and travel behavioural change measures may eventually receive funding through other mechanisms.

The scheme was conceived as a major opportunity for public transport investment in the conurbation as a whole, which in turn has been clearly linked to broader economic, social and environmental objectives. The original TIF package represented £2.8bn of investment, with 80% of the public transport component being operational in advance of congestion charging. Planned public transport investment included additional sections of the Metrolink tram network, capacity increases in local rail services, a restructured pattern of bus services, additional park and ride spaces, plus improved interchange, ticketing and information facilities.

Towards Sustainable Travel

Greater Manchester has a relatively high proportion of journeys to work by car (65%), a UK-average rate of traffic growth between 1997-2007 (14%), but transport CO2 emissions are relatively low at 1.8 tonnes per person. This implies relatively short trip lengths. For AM peak commuting to the regional centre (Manchester and Salford city centres), 61% of trips are made by non-car modes (Greater Manchester Transport Statistics, GMTU, 2007). Achieving sustainable travel behaviour is a huge challenge, yet the planned transport infrastructure and TDM investments and associated urban planning initiatives illustrate the potential for change at the metropolitan scale.

Strategic Transport Network

A sub-regional, multi-modal approach to managing the strategic transport network is followed, with an effective integration with spatial planning. The AGMA has developed a transport strategy that embodies a corridor approach to land use planning, based on 15 radial corridors, each of which contains a major public transport link – rail, tram or bus rapid transit – and which collectively develop a series of networks for the conurbation as a whole. A key element of the strategy is to provide improved and expanded public transport infrastructure and services in support of regeneration. Corridor partnerships are detailed in the Local Transport Plan 2006/07-2010/11.

Inner Manchester and central Salford are seen as occupying a critical role as the regional centre and a significant proportion of the transport strategy is directed at serving (and managing) radial movements to and from this commercial core. This, together with ancillary improvements in feeder routes and interchanges, provide a marked change in the transport alternatives available to residents in the wider conurbation.

Accessibility of Key Facilities

Due to the volume of trips generated through employment and visits to key facilities, such as hospitals, schools and recreation centres, [public transport] accessibility from all areas within the catchment is critical to sustainable travel. AGMA’s transport strategy reflects local planning priorities over a wide area. These priorities include improving accessibility to key facilities and employment from areas of significant deprivation, so as to maximise impact on social inclusivity, employment levels and productivity, as well as pursuing secondary economic benefits through developing the conurbation’s secondary town centres.

For example, additional sections of the Oldham/Rochdale Metrolink line provide connections to a series of town and district centres providing a catalyst to economic regeneration and housing market renewal.

Traffic Demand Management

The original TIF bid exemplifies best practice in TDM as infrastructure investment, operational initiatives and pricing mechanisms were developed into a comprehensive package that was also reflected in the Local Development Frameworks of the individual metropolitan councils. In order for TDM measures to be effective in supporting spatial planning policies they should generally cover a wide area and scope. Although the pricing mechanisms have been weakened by the voting against the congestion charging scheme, there is still much scope for investment and complementary pricing measures such as [lower] ticket prices and [higher] parking charges. The referendum result illustrates the difficulties involved in implementing a sustainable transport strategy.

Enabling Conditions

Strong cross-authority working and access to funding have supported the development of an integrated approach in Greater Manchester.

Cross-Disciplinary and Cross-Authority Working

Greater Manchester is a good example of authorities establishing an administrative structure in which related economic, spatial and transport issues can be considered collectively across a conurbation.

The AGMA network comprises the 10 metropolitan district councils plus the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority. The AGMA has been described as ”a mature model of cooperative working” with authorities collaborating to advance prospects for inward investment and to exert maximum influence on bodies such as the Regional Development Agency. The Association’s response to the Government’s TIF invitation was offered as a further example of the city region demonstrating initiative and ”getting in early” to help shape the detail and provide maximum local benefit.

At a supporting level, AGMA operates through a Chief Executives’ steering group and a number of working groups, including transport. It has developed a series of objectives which underlie the Multi-Area Agreement for the conurbation. There is also an LTP Steering Group (a single Local Transport Plan is produced for the conurbation), comprising a mix of transport and planning officers up to Chief Officer level. In addition, there are a number of working forums of planning officers across the conurbation working on Local Development Frameworks.

Politically however AGMA has no independent powers. The charging proposal and the associated investment package illustrate the difficulty, in process terms, in developing an institution able to implement progressive proposals conurbation-wide. AGMA is dependent on the individual decision-making of its constituent councils, contributing, in part, to the rejection of the TIF bid. This situation may change as a result of the review of transport functions within the conurbation as an Integrated Transport Area, which is provided for under the Local Transport Act (2008) (see Policy and Guidance).

Funding Mechanisms

Nonetheless, an indication of the strength of the AGMA is the recent funding announcement for two Metrolink extensions, a package of cross-city bus improvements and new park-and-ride sites. They have received £195 million of Central Government funding with the remaining funding (£244million) being contributed by local authorities.

In addition, the AGMA has developed and agreed to a Greater Manchester Transport Fund, prioritising public transport and highway schemes. In total, including the accelerated elements above, the Transport Fund will involve an investment of £1.5 billion.