​Frequently Asked Questions

How do we measure environmental impacts across Greater Manchester and ensure public transport schemes protect plants, animals and habitats?​

Transport for Greater Manchester collects and uses environmental information in the planning and operation of public transport, such as air and water quality, locations of plants and animals, noise and vibration and soil contamination. It includes information held in documents, pictures, maps and records. For major schemes an Environmental Statement is prepared by consultants that are independent from Transport for Greater Manchester. They collate all the environmental information into a single document. It explains what conditions (for instance air quality or noise) occur now (this is called the 'baseline'), and would in the future if a scheme was not carried out. In some cases the information is already available, and in others we use experts to collect it for us. It then predicts what would happen with the scheme, this allows a decision to be taken on whether the environmental effects of a scheme (which are often good), mean it should go ahead. We have Tree Habitat and Aftercare policies to ensure that plants and animals are better off overall if a scheme goes ahead. For major schemes we require contractors to follow a 'Construction Code of Practice', which ensures that the project is built in an environmentally friendly way.

What are Transport for Greater Manchester doing to help improve the environment?​

Since 2008 Transport for Greater Manchester has achieved and retained ISO 14001 accreditation, an internationally recognised standard demonstrating our commitment to continuous improvement in our environmental performance. TfGM has also developed and embedded an Environmental Policy which is both a public declaration of our intention to respect the environment, and a springboard for action. The Environmental Policy includes a commitment to fully comply with all applicable regulations, standards and approved codes of practice.


What can I do to improve the environment?​

There is a lot you can do which does not have to cost much time or money. Public transport generally produces less pollution than using a car or taxi, so using trains, buses and trams more and private transport less is a good start. Walking and cycling are not only good for the environment but make you healthier and feel better too. Air travel is particularly bad for the environment, but you can offset the damage by planting a tree that will absorb the pollution you have produced - in fact you can do this for any journey.

There are several websites which can help you calculate what you need to pay (the Future Forests website http://carbonneutral.com/shop for instance is a good one).There is a lot of information available, particularly on the internet, about how small changes to your life can make a big difference to the environment. Almost all libraries now offer free internet access, so why wait?


What is sustainable development?​

The concept of sustainable development has been around for several decades. It is a simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. The most widely used definition is 'development which meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

Is public transport good for the environment?​

In general the answer is that the same trip carried out by public transport is better for the environment than the private car, however, the answer is sometimes more complicated. For instance, if someone buys a car they may change their journey completely rather than shopping in central Manchester, they may go to the Trafford Centre instead. Nearly all the car traffic growth since 1950 has been caused by long car journeys replacing short bus and walking ones. We do know from experience in Sheffield that good, cheap public transport means that many people will choose not to buy a car. We also know from London that regulated, integrated public transport really can attract people out of their cars, reduce pollution and make towns and cities a better place to live in. But good public transport is only part of the answer. Planners must only agree development at places that are easy to get to by public transport, otherwise car use and the associated environmental damage such as pollution, noise and new roads will continue to increase.

Is Park and Ride good for the environment?​


Park and Ride is very popular and appropriate sites can be good for the environment and for other reasons. In a densely built-up up area such as Greater Manchester, Metrolink and rail routes are generally the best way to beat congestion, currently there are already 3,500 park and ride spaces at stations. The success of schemes are assessed in terms of both positive and negative effects including environmental, social and economic impacts.


Why can't Greater Manchester have more Park and Ride sites?​

Park and Ride is very popular, and Greater Manchester already has several thousand park and ride spaces at Metrolink and rail stations. These can be good for the environment. For instance in Chester Park and Ride buses keep cars out of the historic centre. In Greater Manchester however the story is a bit different and Park and Ride sites can actually increase car mileage. Surveys suggest many people would otherwise walk, cycle or get the bus to the station, and for every five cars spaces we build only one is occupied by a new public transport user. Where there is proven demand and it is right for the environment, we provide more spaces. The nature of Greater Manchester means that these are likely to be rail or Metrolink based, rather than using buses.

Why can't buses turn their engines off at bus stops?​

Air pollution from diesel engines, including buses, shortens lives and affects the health and development of children. Buses left with their engines running presents a poor image. At GMPTE controlled bus stations, we require drivers to turn off the engines of buses if they are likely to be waiting for more than five minutes. If a bus is causing a nuisance by standing with its engines running elsewhere, then the local authority can issue a fixed penalty notice to the driver - in this case please contact your local Environmental Health Department.

How good is air quality in Greater Manchester?​

Air pollution causes asthma, other respiratory problems, and premature deaths. People who are already in poor health, or live in poorer areas, are usually worst affected. Local councils are required by law to measure their air quality, and predict what it will be like in the future. If pollution is predicted to be above Government target levels for a range of pollutants, the local council must declare an 'Air Quality Management Area' and produce an 'Air Quality Management Plan'.
The decline of heavy industry and the greater regulation of remaining factories has reduced industrial air pollution. Road traffic is now the major air pollutant, and one which is estimated to lead to several hundred premature deaths in Greater Manchester each year. The main pollutants are Particulate (small particles of carbon also known as 'Black Smoke'), and Nitrogen Dioxide (a colourless gas). Buses are significant producers of these in some parts of Greater Manchester. The main culprits are heavy goods vehicles, simply because there are far more of them than diesel buses and trains.
The number of days of poor air quality depend on the weather - hot, still weather allows pollutants to accumulate. On average air quality is bad on about 20 - 30 days a year in Greater Manchester, a very hot summer such as 2004 and 2006 would result in limits being exceeded on about 50 days.

Does public transport in Greater Manchester use renewable energy resources?​

Diesel buses and trains currently use fossil fuel. There is potential for buses to use hybrid engines which combine an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors. Other lower carbon transport technology options are currently technologically and commercially immature, but substantial progress is expected in the longer term. For this to succeed as a carbon reduction strategy for decarbonisation of the energy supply mix is necessary. For both batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, clean road transport will be dependent on clean power.

In July 2007, Metrolink became the first tram network in the UK where traction current is supplied entirely through green energy - specifically large scale hydropower, The rail industry currently has no plans to buy renewable electricity for electric trains (responsibility of Network Rail), or Biofuels for diesel trains (responsibility of individual operators).
What happens when I flush the toliet on the train?​

This may seem a funny question, but we do get asked. Almost all trains now have toilet retention tanks that are emptied at the depot at the end of the day. Older trains, generally on local routes, may not have tanks and the waste falls on the tracks. Away from stations this is not as bad as it sounds, as the ballast acts like a sewage treatment works and microbes quickly break the waste down. At major stations you may notice trays and things that look like sandbags, these are intended to ensure the waste does not cause a nuisance.

How do I report a smoky bus?​

Well maintained vehicles should produce very little smoke, except when they are starting up, accelerating hard, or climbing steep hills. However, some vehicles emit dense plumes of smoke, and may not meet legal emissions standards. Excessively smoky vehicles cause air pollution, can be a health hazard and are bad for the environment.
To report a smoking vehicle you will need:
  • Type of vehicle (e.g. van, lorry, taxi or car)
  • Vehicle registration number (and taxi license number if applicable)
  • Company name (if apparent) Where you saw the problem (street / road name)
  • Date and time of sighting
  • Your name, address and contact details (if you wish) telephone number/email address
Contact Transport for Greater Manchester: telephone 0161 244 1000 or write to us at Transport for Greater Manchester, 2 Piccadilly Place, Manchester M1 3BG. We will report the bus to the Vehicle Inspectorate and the bus company.

How do I get information about the effects on my house or business from a rail, bus or Metrolink scheme?​

If you are seeking information about environmental issues you can contact the project officer for a particular scheme, or the Environmental Team: telephone 0161 244 1000 or write to us at Transport for Greater Manchester, 2 Piccadilly Place, Manchester M1 3BG.

I ama student - How do I get environmental information for a school or college project?​

Transport for Greater Manchester is pleased to help students with projects related to transport and the environment. We have information packs on some topics such as Metrolink, and will try to make time to answer questions. However, we would ask you to come to us as soon as possible, and to think about what you need. If your request is general it is more difficult for us to help you. Many of our documents can be sent out in the post, e-mailed or inspected at our offices in central Manchester (but please ring first to arrange an appointment). Face to face discussions can also be arranged, particularly if there is a group.

I am a teacher - what educational resources are available?​

Transport and environment topics can be useful for National Curriculum Attainment Targets and college projects. We have some education packs, and the DingDing website offers a range of educational opportunities http://www.dingding.org.uk.

What do I do if my bus parks up and leaves its engine running?​

Under the Road Vehicles Regulations (1986) it is an offence to leave an engine running unnecessarily while the vehicle is parked. The Road Traffic Regulations (2002) provide Local Authorities with the power to carry out enforcement of this offence and issue Fixed Penalty Notices to those who refuse to cooperate. Street Wardens have powers to issue £20 fines to the drivers of vehicles that are idling. By law local authorities are able to issue a fine if they think an engine is running unnecessarily, or if they ask the driver to turn the engine off and the driver refuses. In practice local authorities have guidelines to allow buses and taxis 5 minutes of standing with their engines running before they issue a fine. The fine is issued to the driver and not the company that owns the vehicle.

To report a bus idling over 5 minutes you will need:
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Company name (if apparent) Where you saw the problem (street / road name)
  • Date and time of sighting
  • Your name, address and contact details (if you wish) telephone number/email address
  • You should then contact the environmental department of the local authority where the incident took place​