Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has launched a new £800,000 funding package and interactive web portal to help businesses and employers embed sustainable travel behaviours, head-off a car-led recovery and build back better from the pandemic.
While the numbers of trips on public transport dropped significantly during lockdown – and still remain well below ‘normal’ levels – the numbers of trips by car remained consistently high and are now close to pre-pandemic levels, said TfGM.
If that trend continues, and more people opt for private car use over public transport or cycling and walking, traffic congestion could cost GM businesses more than the £1.3bn it did before coronavirus.
As more people start to return to the workplace, the move is part of a drive to help rebuild confidence in sustainable travel and support Greater Manchester’s social and economic recovery from the pandemic by encouraging the uptake of safe, sustainable travel amongst employers, employees, staff and customers.
The new funding package is made up of two pots, including:
- A £250,000 pot for SMEs with fewer than 250 staff for interventions such as cycle parking, pool bikes and changing or storage solutions, up to £10,000 per application.
- A £550,000 pot to help provide cycle parking for small businesses/organisations, NHS, Housing Associations and schools located within 400m of eligible Bee Network cycling and walking schemes being delivered in 2021.
Alongside the extra funding being delivered to support active travel, a new interactive online portal provides a wide range of advice and resources, including a live chat function, to support business and employers in travel planning and options for encouraging and embedding sustainable transport. This includes options that support flexible working practices and take the pressure off the traditional peak times.
Elise Wilson, Leader of Stockport Council and GM Economy and Business Lead, said: “The last 16 months have been exceptionally tough for everyone, but it has given us the opportunity to reset our thinking on how, when and where people work and travel, to the benefit of all our residents and visitors.
“Congestion cost business in Greater Manchester £1.3bn before the pandemic and we really want to head off a car-led recovery and a return to that situation. To do that we need to embed smarter ways of commuting that not only cut congestion and reduce cost to business, but have tangible health, wellbeing and productivity benefits.
“This is a great opportunity and I’d encourage people to visit the interactive portal and find out more about the available funding and what you can be doing for your staff, suppliers and customers.”
To give people the confidence to travel sustainably, TfGM is launching a bike hire scheme in November and delivering 100km of cycling and walking routes and 95 electric vehicle charging points by end of the year, with a further 200 by end of 2022.
TfGM is also working with other transport operators to continue delivering a series of interventions to help keep passengers travelling with confidence, including:
- Changing the conditions of carriage on Metrolink to ensure passengers must continue to wear a face covering unless exempt when government restrictions are lifted.
- Hand sanitiser dispensers have been installed at bus stations, at interchanges and on the busiest Metrolink stops.
- Commonly touched surfaces across the public transport network, including rails, handles and doors, are being disinfected and cleaned regularly.
- We’re keeping fresh air flowing on trams, buses and trains.
- People with hidden disabilities are being supported to give them confidence to travel safely.
- Police and TravelSafe officers regularly patrol the public transport network to promote safe travel and engage with passengers.
- A range of tickets and passes are available to help people travel more flexibly.