Women’s safety in question as proposal of a night tram stalls after cross party disagreements in Council meeting
Questions around a night tram service in Manchester have come to light once again in the Manchester City Council meeting yesterday (Wednesday 30 November).
The plan was proposed in by the Lib Dem councillor Alan Good. Cllr Good argued it would be a value asset to boosting the night-time economy of Manchester, whilst increasing women’s safety.
The motion proposed said, “Gigs, restaurants, clubbing, and festivals have blossomed in the wake of the pandemic with millions flocking to Greater Manchester to pursue this entertainment. If you are out working, or enjoying yourself late at night, residents face a curfew for the tram, expensive taxis, or a risky walk home in the dark.”
The proposal comes off the back of a campaign in London, led by Ella Watson, a local resident in London. Ms Watson successfully campaigned for the tube to be reinstated to running during the night to increase the safety of women.
The night tube runs on a Friday and Saturday nights on the Central, Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines and when fully operational includes the Victoria lines.
The service has seen a popular demand despite worries about the number of customers that would engage with the tube. With growing rates in population in Greater Manchester, the Metrolink has seen an increase in service users as well as the buses.
The proposal from the Lib-Dems is a three-month trial of a night tram on the Eccles via Media City to Ashton-under-Lyne service, running until 2am in the week and 4am at the weekends. This proposal comes two weeks after Salford council passed a similar motion.
Labour councillors Basil Curley and Tim Whiston supported the motion whilst raising points regarding the need for expansion of public transport in Manchester. Councillor Curley stressed the importance of “improving a link” to North Manchester with public transport as it has become a “public transport desert”. Councillor Curley called for Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester to listen to his ward members as “some have jobs as the airport and if reliant on public transport, they simply cannot get there.”
Bar staff in Manchester voiced their concerns that the hospitality sector is not cared for by the council or the national government. Harry O’Hagan, a local bartender said: “I have staff that spend a quarter of the money they have earned on in a shift on just travelling to and from work. My staff are forced to get taxis home when they finish late which cost more than 10 pounds. It’s not right.”
“The fact the council haven’t put a plan in place to accommodate hospitality staff after how it was treated in the pandemic is a disgrace.”
Councillor leader Bev Craig pushed back on the motion, outlining that the motion proposed was not the same one that Salford council passed. Councillor Craig stated that the council are ‘pushing hard’ to integrate public transport in Greater Manchester.
Craig also noted that the funding of public transport is significantly different to London, as 30% of the London tube system is subsidised. Also, Craig called for government to listen to its calls and look at the way it funds public transport in Britain.
The tram currently runs from 6am till midnight in Manchester but Labour council have announced plans in 2023 to reintroduce a longer running service of the tram until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights.
Craig ended her pushback on the proposal with scathing remarks that she “would not be happy to copy and paste a motion that even Salford City council couldn’t pass themselves.”
Councillor Craig seconded Councillor Curley’s calls for public transport in North Manchester and that a north-south Metrolink trial should be the service that is trialled first rather than a service that “cuts across the side of the city”.
This divide in council has stalled any plans to improve public transport at night in the urban city centre environment. Many night time workers such as bar and restaurant staff are left to spend excessive amounts on travel to and from work.
Questions around women’s safety have also become a concern with violence against women such as the Sarah Everard case and the rise of misogyny on social media.
A campaign that is looking to tackle this problem is the ‘Resist Rape Culture’ campaign set up by University of Manchester students. The campaign looks at tackling rape culture and sexual violence, as well as improving support for survivors and the reporting system currently in place.
The movement has gained lots of support around Manchester, particularly in the student community of Fallowfield and Rusholme. The campaign has challenged the university to offer more support services to students on campus whilst also implementing a zero-tolerance policy.
In a conversation with Northern Quota, Sohini, co-chair of the campaign, raised her concerns around the women’s safety in the city.
“The city is not very safe at night at all really near the Fallowfield campus – there is not a lot of street lighting. A couple of months ago we had a stabbing in Fallowfield and I’m not sure what’s been done by the police or the council to make the area feel safer.”
Speaking about how transport effects students travel into the city centre, Sohini pointed out the lack of public transport availability for students and residents of South Manchester. “The buses run until 12am and if you want to travel into the city after that then you might have to walk and there is not a lot of street lighting from the Oxford Road area to Longsight.”
Talking about the Night Tram proposal, Sohini echoed Councillor Whiston’s points that more public transport is needed.
“More public transport is needed, in particular to university campuses as well as at night.”
The Resist Rape Culture campaign took aim at Andy Burnham, by calling out the lack of change that has occurred regarding women’s safety in Manchester and that “nothing proactive and beneficial” has been implemented.
The night tram proposal is a debate that will continue to be raised in council meetings across Greater Manchester but until parties are willing to cooperate with each other the motion will continue to stall.
Two other motions were unanimously passed in the meeting, the Climate and Ecology Bill which urged Manchester MPs back the bill in Parliament and a motion to “end the chaos of the Conservative government.”