Is our Infrastructure Supporting Urban Regeneration?

EightyTwenty is a regular, fortnightly breakfast event Partisan hosts for business leaders and professionals connected with the built environment.

This time, our focus was on infrastructure, and whether it is up to the task of supporting urban regeneration.

Manchester’s Rail Issues

Manchester is a site of major urban development and regeneration, but its rail infrastructure is increasingly exposed as being not adequate to meet the demands of development.

There are issues with the frequency and connectivity of trains in the North West. There are also fundamental problems such as the length of platforms at Manchester Oxford Road, which operators say cannot support longer trains.

Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, has proposed a Crossrail-type railway for the city, to combat gridlock and help people get across the city more easily and quickly.

The Importance of Transport Hubs

By 2026, the UK population will be over 69 million. There is a housing crisis that the Government wants to help address by building 300,000 houses a year.

But transport also has a crucial role to play in meeting the needs of a growing population.

Transport hubs can help drive regeneration, by connecting people more effectively with local facilities and enterprises, and by connecting regional towns with urban centres.

One example is the extension of the Stockholm metro rail network, helping to boost the development of existing areas such as Arenastaden, and even a brand new neighbourhood, Hagastaden.

Here in the UK, while MPs have voted to extend HS2 as far as Crewe, there are no firm guarantees for the future of the rest of the line.

How Sustainable Transport Supports Smart Growth

The Campaign for Better Transport talks about how good places to live and work in have good transport, but what that the meaning of good transport is changing.

The low density sprawl of original post-war housing development has led to a dependency on the car, with subsequent issues to do with congestion and pollution.

But can future developments cut down on this dependency and avoid the problems it brings in its wake?

Housing can accommodate well-connected, high-density communities and give them better access to public spaces and to opportunities for work.

What this requires is a different approach to development, where sustainable transport, based on public transport, cycling and walking, plays a key role.

It’s not always easy. Manchester’s failed Mobike sharing scheme is testament to that.

It matters that whatever measures and initiatives there are will gel with the local culture, especially a locally rebellious one like Manchester’s.

Restoring Regional Balance

How to better connect the towns and regions of Greater Manchester and the North as a whole?

Successful regeneration is restricted if it is only focused on the centre. For the regions to truly benefit, there needs to be interdependencies, recognising how different areas can work together to achieve common goals.

In this, building a sustainable, practical and reliable transport infrastructure is critical.

This is where regional concerns meet wider issues.

The UK economy has the most regionally unbalanced economy in Europe. Recovery since 2008 has been slow, and outside London, the contrast is stark.

Manchester itself has attracted huge amounts of investment, but without sufficient focus on its neighbouring regions, it risks duplicating the London effect in a northern setting.

Our Guests This Time

The guests at Partisan’s Eighty Twenty breakfast event included:

Lee Birchall, DV8 Design
Mark Fermor, GeoSmart
Paul Hanlak, Arcadis
Ruth Jackson, Ruth Jackson Planning
Martin Lucass, REC
Ivor Phillips, Broadway Malyan

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