Yesterday, I sat in yet another Manchester traffic jam. I crawled 200 yards in half an hour to get onto the M602 at Regent Road, after paying £7.50 for the privilege of leaving my car in an unattended and untarmacked piece of wasteland, 10-minutes outside the City Centre. Needless to say, I was in a foul mood when I finally arrived home!
I’m aware I’m not alone here; the traffic problems around Manchester are well documented in the news and in the Twittersphere. In fact, they’re almost as abundant as the countless articles on Manchester’s continued rise to become the undisputed “Capital of The North”. These two conflicting stories are two sides of the same coin though and made me think; is Manchester outgrowing itself?
I’m not bashing the city; I was born and raised in Manchester, and apart from a four-year stint in New Zealand, I’ve lived and worked here all of my life. I’m a tremendously proud Mancunian, a lifelong Man City fan and lover of the city; with its rich history and its generous, humble yet cocksure people, and a fierce supporter of all things Manc.
I’ve relished witnessing the growth and development over the last twenty or thirty years; an incredible change, from a rough and ready post-industrial mess in the ‘eighties, where boarded-up warehouses stood shoulder-to-shoulder with run down shops and dingy old men’s pubs. To the modern, glamorous and multi-cultural city that thrives and grows bigger and bigger each year.
You only have to look up to see the ever-present phalanx of cranes and construction, apartment blocks, offices and restaurants in the sky; constant reminders of the inward investment and money that drives this colossal growth.
But this growth, this Northern Powerhouse, has an unwanted corollary in the sheer demand being placed on an ageing, crowded and creaky infrastructure. Recently, this congestion even encouraged Jose Mourinho to walk to a United game on foot - although I’m reliably informed he didn’t need much persuasion to park the bus!
Public transport can’t cope with the upsurge in demand and is prohibitively expensive for many (especially the train and tram networks). Parking spots are shrinking as they are developed for ever more apartments and offices, and the cycle lanes are well behind where they need to be to genuinely encourage green commuting.
We’re revelling in our second-city status and rightfully so; jobs are abundant and life seems sweet for many, but the flip side is the horrific traffic, rising pollution and lack of affordable parking.
Is there anything businesses can do to help mitigate these problems for their employees?
Well, they could offer (or even encourage) remote working as an option where possible - my next blog will go into more detail on this. Flexible working with travel times outside of rush-hours could also help reduce the bottlenecks and massively reduce commute times leaving a much happier workforce.
Cycle-to-Work schemes are easily adopted and offer employees tax-free incentives to buy bikes more affordably while reducing their carbon footprint (and often their commute times and waistlines in tandem too!) Other options are season ticket loans against the cost of public transport and/or parking fees.
Ultimately though it’s a governmental issue and the biggest changes required are to the infrastructure; improved town planning, investment in the roads, affordable public transport systems and parking options, park and ride schemes and better cycle routes.
Perhaps I’m becoming a miserable middle-aged man, fearful of change and nostalgically stuck in the past, but I don’t think so…..we have to ask ourselves, do we really want to become just another London?
Manchester; be careful what you wish for, our kid….
Dan Middlebrook is a Marketing Recruitment Lead for B2B at Forward Role, specialising in the industrial, manufacturing, logistics and construction industries. He can be found tweeting @forwardrole_dan and on LinkedIn.