WAR ON TRAFFIC CONGESTION STARTS HERE
TRANSPORT MINISTER and Deputy Prime Minister, the abrasive but jocular John Prescott today gave details of the long-awaited Government White Paper on transport, and people in Manchester are very interested in what it has to say.
Basically, John Prescott wants people to leave their cars at home and use public transport. If we don't, he says, a motorway will have to built between London and Leeds that's 150 lanes wide (Hmmm, not sure about that one!). Children are to be encouraged to walk or cycle to school through the introduction of safe routes. Motorists will be forced to pay to enter congested city centres through "road pricing" systems - an electronic monitoring system tracks all car movements and bills motorists for journeys into the city. The money raised will be used to fund a better and more integrated transport system.
As a five year old, I took the bus from Cheadle Heath to my school in Edgeley & back every day (fare: a penny halfpenny) Nowadays, nine children out of ten are taken to school by car. In the seventies, when I learned to drive, the roads were a lot emptier, today, there's hardly a street that isn't crowded with parked cars, and the roads in and out of Manchester are often jammed with cars, many with only one driver (myself among them).
People should use public transport more - I use it whenever I can - but the fact remains that with some notable exceptions (e.g. the "Mancunian" bus above) buses and trains are often slow, crowded, inconvenient, run-down and expensive. Unless there's an improvement, car drivers will simply pay the extra taxes and keep using their cars.
The Metrolink, opened in 1992, is Manchester's biggest transport success story, but why were Manchester's trams ever got rid of? Many smaller cities in Germany - including Manchester's twin city Chemnitz, which I hope to visit soon - have tram systems. Germany has more cars per head than the UK, but uses them less.
The solution to traffic congestion isn't coercion and taxation of car drivers, it's through providing buses, trams and trains that are frequent, punctual, attractive, convenient, comfortable and cheap. Let's hope the Government's strategy brings this about.
NORTHERN IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IS ONE STEP CLOSER
EIGHT MILLION POUNDS of money from the European Programme Monitoring Committee has been secured for the Imperial War Museum: North, planned for a site on Trafford Wharf, next to the offices of Ship Canal owners, Peel Holdings.
There was disappointment when the Heritage Lottery refused to provide funding, causing speculation that the Lottery is southern-biased. The project is only a few million pounds short of the target. The design, by Daniel Libeskind, is in the form of a globe shattered into many pieces by the ravages of war. The Museum's striking shape will form a landmark visible on the skyline for miles around.
Talking of landmarks, this neon light sculpture recently appeared on top of the multi-storey car park diagonally opposite Afflecks Palace. At night, it's a superbly futuristic and eye-catching feature, in marked contrast to the ugly structure it's built on. I say, let's have more of them, and bigger! (Neon beacons, I mean!)
MORE BAD WEATHER
RAIN RAIN and more rain. This is what I saw through my car windscreen driving along Princess Street this afternoon. I've hardly taken any photographs at all for the past few weeks, and have had to dig into the archives to brighten up the Eyewitness page. Fifty years ago, it was rainy too, and they had an explanation for it. Find out more in Manchester Eyewitness 1948
The prognosis still doesn't look good. Unsettled weather patterns look set to prolong the run of cloudy and rainy weather. The only change has been an increase in temperature and moisture levels, making it feel a little like Hong Kong in the monsoon season - give or take quite a few points on the temperature, humidity and wind speed scales. The current EWM temperature is 65/18 degrees.
From: J Burns
Sorry, today's picture isn't so up-to-date, but do you really want to see leaden skies and drizzle? Thanks for the message, and please keep visiting Eyewitness in Manchester and Manchester Online
Wow, I hadn't even noticed that myself! Hope to do more views soon, at higher resolution
"What a good job you have done on your DS98 website! I really was impressed!"
Chris Joyce, Digital Summer 98 Festival Director
£4000 FOR SCHOOLS THAT CAN OFFER EXCLUDED "JOHNNY" A PLACE
MANCHESTER EDUCATION COMMITTEE came in for some adverse media exposure this week. The respected BBC current affairs programme Newsnight came here to investigate Manchester's less than enviable record in education. Roy Jobson, Chief Education Officer, Manchester City Council, was given a grilling on the programme, and had to answer questions from an angry Manchester mother who had "lost confidence" in the Authority.
It certainly was an unenviable task, but Mr Jobson tried to focus attention on the unique problems the Manchester faces, and Council's success stories in trying to overcome them. The main criticism of Manchester City Council is that it has one of the highest rates of children who have been excluded from class, but haven't been found alternative placements. One or two disruptive children in a class be a nightmare. I know, having done time as a French and German teacher at a school in North Manchester 15 years ago - an experience I'd rather not repeat!
So, in response to the criticism, the Authority is now offering £4000 to every Manchester Education Committee school that can offer a place to an excluded child - double the previous amount. Is this a case of throwing good money after bad, or rewarding bad behaviour with Council Tax payers money? Maybe some of you out there in the Rockies or the Outback would like to adopt young Billy from Burnage, Mark from Moston or Sharon from Sharston. If £4000 were on offer, perhaps a bit of disruptive behaviour might be worth putting up with!
MUFC MAKES GOOD PROFITS
MANCHESTER UNITED Football Club made £87.9 million last year. Merchandising and having ownership of the stadium were important factors. As ITV Teletext reported, United's profits were about the same as the top two Italian teams put together.
NORTH WEST IS CHEAPEST FOR BEER
A RECENTLY-published report by CAMRA - the Campaign for Real Ale - reveals that the average price for a pint of real ale is £1.47 in the North West, about thirty or forty pence lower than in London, where a pint of lager costs £2.12 on average. In Manchester City Centre, prices vary considerably - in many pubs, you'll get a pint of bitter for well £1.50. In some Castlefield cafe-bars, a pint can cost £3 or more. Continental brews like Hoegaarden and Budweis are very popular, but Boddington's is still one of the most popular beers. I have no preference - I like lager, bitter or stout, depending on what day it is, but I must say I was very impressed with Mash & Air's own "Mash" lager, brewed on the premises, and it cost a reasonable £2.40!
MORE RAIN MORE SUNSHINE MORE CLOUDS MORE WIND!
IT JUST GOES ON AND ON, this weather. Yesterday, when I left home for the centre, it was pouring rain and I brought my umbrella. By the afternoon, it was sunny and bright, with quite large patches of blue in some parts of the sky. On Thursday, King St looked very sunny and summery - can you spot the blue sky at the top? The DC20 doesn't always record blues as well as it should, but I didn't add a blue filter effect, unlike the photo at the top, captured on Agfa 200 ASA negative film using the Nikon FM, and scanned with the Nikon Coolscan.
Today it's been a mixture of sunshine and clouds, with some strong winds this afternoon. I'm still suffering from summer chest and throat infection, and am maintaining a low profile. But Eyewitness goes on as usual! Current EWM temperature 61/16 degrees.
LOTS OF INTERESTING ARTICLES AND PICTURES
LOTS OF NEWS STORIES
IT'S BEEN a busy two days for news stories in Manchester, so I'll just go ahead and give you a summary of them: YESTERDAY: Taxi drivers staged a protest through the city centre against illigal private hire firms they say are taking away their business. The Council say they're doing all they can. A mother and her son died in a stabbing incident on Bridge Street, Macclesfield. John Prescott visited Ancoats and announced a £220m grant for a community centre. David Beckham arrived back in the UK with a police escort. He arrived at United's Salford training ground in a chauffeur-driven Range Rover. The 12 year old Manchester mum says "Baby's OK, but I don't like crying and nappies". The MEN editorial laments the "sad story of a city child". An overhead wiring fault at Cheadle Hulme causes chaos on the railways, while accidents on the M60 cause delays and disruption for car drivers. Surveillance cameras are to be set up to watch over the streets of the City Centre. TODAY: Colin Blundell aged 22 has been charged with the murder of Nick Centi three months ago. There is worry over the progress on the 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium. Sports Minister Tony Banks is confident the project will go ahead. A staged kidnapping event takes place as part of DS98 - see Eyewitness @ DS98 for more details A plan to put cast iron palm trees in the new Exchange Square has been called "barmy" by the Civic Society. No imported natural variety can stand Manchester's climate. Is this a misguided attempt to turn Manchester into the "Miami of the North"?
IT'S BEEN a busy two days for news stories in Manchester, so I'll just go ahead and give you a summary of them:
Taxi drivers staged a protest through the city centre against illigal private hire firms they say are taking away their business. The Council say they're doing all they can.
A mother and her son died in a stabbing incident on Bridge Street, Macclesfield.
John Prescott visited Ancoats and announced a £220m grant for a community centre.
David Beckham arrived back in the UK with a police escort. He arrived at United's Salford training ground in a chauffeur-driven Range Rover.
The 12 year old Manchester mum says "Baby's OK, but I don't like crying and nappies". The MEN editorial laments the "sad story of a city child".
An overhead wiring fault at Cheadle Hulme causes chaos on the railways, while accidents on the M60 cause delays and disruption for car drivers.
Surveillance cameras are to be set up to watch over the streets of the City Centre.
Colin Blundell aged 22 has been charged with the murder of Nick Centi three months ago.
There is worry over the progress on the 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium. Sports Minister Tony Banks is confident the project will go ahead.
A staged kidnapping event takes place as part of DS98 - see Eyewitness @ DS98 for more details
A plan to put cast iron palm trees in the new Exchange Square has been called "barmy" by the Civic Society. No imported natural variety can stand Manchester's climate. Is this a misguided attempt to turn Manchester into the "Miami of the North"?
UNDER THE WEATHER
THE WEATHER has continued to be changeable. Rain fell this morning, but the skies cleared later to bring some sunshine. Still no cloudless expanses of blue sky for me to take those photos. How much longer will I have to wait?
Your Eyewitness in Manchester is feeling a bit under the weather at the moment - my summertime flu has arrived - but it's not because of the the weather - I even used to get it in Saudi Arabia! And that reminds me - today is the second anniversary of our departure from the United Arab Emirates to return to live in wonderful Manchester. The time has flown!
The current EWM temperature is 61/16 degrees. I'm not the only Mancunian that's feeling under the weather... See "Reader Responses below..."
"What a good job you have done on your DS98 website! I really was impressed!"
Chris Joyce, Digital Summer 98 Festival Director
Just a short note to say that the new format is much better for printing out, which I do for my wife and her friends who come from Manchester.
I was interested to see the photos you are taking with the Kodak digital camera. They reproduce very well.
It's been very chilly in Melbourne recently (well it *is* the middle of Winter), 0 - 12 degrees Celsius today, but my wife and I are going to use up some Frequent Flyer points with a week's trip to Brisbane and surrounds where we hope it will be more like 20 Celcius.
Keep up the good work.
Enjoy your trip. Good to hear you like the new format. All the best and keep visiting Eyewitness in Manchester
COOL CAFE BAR AND COOL PHOTOS
LAST NIGHT I attended the first night private viewing of an exhibition by an up and coming young photographer from Manchester, Jackson Jackson.
The gamine young subject in Jackson's black & white portrait could be a waitress in a Parisian bistro, or perhaps the lead actress in an obscure East European film. In fact, like all the people in the portraits, she works behind the bar at one of Manchester's most fashionable cafe-bars, Mash and Air, on Canal Street, where the exhibition runs for the next couple of months.
The photos are superb. If you're in Manchester, drop in and see them, oh, and try some of the beer, brewed on the premises, it's great, and not as expensive as you'd think...
Coming Manchester People include City Council leader Richard Leese, and City Centre Committee chairman Councillor Pat Karney...