I THINK I’m right in remembering that envy is one of the deadly sins, and I confess to feeling just that emotion recently.
I was in Manchester for a few days and felt highly jealous in experiencing a high quality of public transport which Hartlepool and the surrounding region would give its right arm for.
I know that Manchester is a big city and we are a smallish town, but the principles are pretty much the same and show what can be done if the will and commercial intelligence is there.
The first big plus point the Mancunians have is a simply brilliant free bus service which tootles around the city centre on a very regular basis and, what an original idea, the buses go where people want to be.
It calls in on the main Piccadilly railway station and stops off at the city centre hotels and near to all of the shopping and market areas.
The icing on the cake is the Metro system which is a clever network of trams serving the city itself and neighbouring suburbs.
It shows how ideas go full circle and I’m sure you’ve seen many old photos in the Hartlepool Mail of our system from years gone by.
They were known as trolley buses but the principle was very much the same.
The Hartlepool trolleys ran on overhead lines while Manchester’s trams run on a light railway track system, and how I wish we had something like it.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I was a very satisfied tram user.
One of the reasons I was in the city was for cricket events at Old Trafford, including the pre-Test Lunch and some glorious sunshine at the game itself.
I was staying in the centre right next door to Piccadilly Station, which is just a couple of miles to the outskirts where the famous cricket and football grounds of Old Trafford are located.
My simple journey involved crossing the road, buying a £3 day return ticket and taking the tram to, literally, the entrance gate to the ground.
As well as Manchester itself, the network runs to nearby communities, and I was daydreaming about transplanting that lovely set up to here in Hartlepool.
Let’s put the two systems together and imagine what we could have had.
I’ve argued before that a simple free shuttle route around town would be a godsend and just picture the commercial and comfort benefit of being able to hop on and off a bus system serving Seaton, the Shopping Centre, the Marina and the Headland.
Added to that, a Manchester-style tram system on a similar scale would link us to neighbouring Teesside towns as well as nearby south east Durham.
One tram line could stop at Sunderland to join up with the Tyneside Metro and the regional jigsaw would be complete.
As well as Hartlepool residents getting around easily for work and pleasure, imagine the business coming in.
I wouldn’t dream of driving around Greater Manchester – you just don’t need it.
The public transport is quicker, cheaper and much more convenient – and that’s what clinches arguments, not well meaning speeches.
Well played Manchester’s system – can we have one please?