Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 12:52 UK

Manchester C-charge 'to go ahead'

London's congestion charge zone
London brought in congestion charging in 2003

The government looks set to allow congestion charging for drivers entering and leaving Manchester.

Plans for a two-ring scheme, charging up to 5 at busy times from 2013, are expected to be set out later.

The charge, which would be in place from 7am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6.30pm weekdays, would be offset by 3bn of public transport improvements.

Supporters of the plans hope they will reduce congestion and pollution, but opponents are calling for a referendum.

Charging rings

Government backing for the charging scheme would make Manchester the first major British city outside London to introduce large-scale congestion charging.

In 2002, Durham became the first city to introduce a congestion charge. It controls access to its cathedral and castle area.

The Manchester plans involve two charging rings, one at the M60, the other close to the city centre.

Charges - triggered by a series of electronic beacons - would vary according to the starting point for the journey.

Supporters of the scheme say Manchester should not pass up an opportunity to improve public transport.

Businessman Ken Knott, a member of business grouping United City, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The 1.2bn that central government are hopefully going to announce supporting the proposal is a gift from government which won't cost the local taxpayer any money whatsoever.

This is clearly going to vastly improve their prospects of being able to get into work and stay in work.
Richard Leese
Manchester Council

"And that will make a huge contribution towards the 3bn investment that we can then make in public transport."

The leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese, told BBC 5 Live Breakfast that the charge went beyond an attempt to cut congestion.

"Less than 20% of motorists in Greater Manchester will pay. The choice will be first of all a first-class public transport system, secondly being able to travel at different times, and thirdly if people do have to travel at those times, their journeys will be 20% faster.

"I think it's also worth bearing in mind that over 30% of Greater Manchester households don't have access to a car at all. And this is clearly going to vastly improve their prospects of being able to get into work and stay in work."

Economic conditions

However, Andrew Simpson, chairman of Greater Manchester Momentum Group, which is opposed to the scheme, said it was a bad idea given the current economic climate, with rising fuel prices and falling house prices.

MANCHESTER ROAD PRICING PROPOSALS
Regular drivers would pay a deposit for an electronic tag which would trigger charges
Charges for journeys into the city between 7am and 9.30am and between 4pm and 6.30pm
Crossing the outer ring, roughly following the M60 motorway, heading into the city centre in the morning would cost 2
Crossing the inner ring, roughly following the inner relief road around Manchester city centre, would cost 1
Crossing each ring heading out of the city in the evening would cost 1
Between 9.30am and 4pm there would be no charging
Weekends and bank holidays would also be exempt

"It's right that we want improved public transport, but if the cost of that is something that's going to cost people in this region up to 1,200 a year to get to work, then I think that's going to be very bad for our jobs and our economy."

A spokesman for Manchester Against Road Tolls said: "Everybody would like to see improvements to public transport but people do not want a road tolls scheme with the less well off drivers forced off the road."

He joined Mr Simpson in calling for a referendum.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), which has proposed the scheme, said no congestion charge would be brought in before "significant improvements" had been made to bus, tram and rail services.

However, Stockport, Trafford and Bury councils are no longer supporting the bid for funding and councillors in Bolton, meanwhile, have promised to hold a public referendum on the issue once all the facts are available.

A public consultation process will be launched across Greater Manchester if the government approves the scheme, with the AGMA convening later in the year to vote on the proposals.

'Incentives'

Professor Stephen Glaister, from the Centre for Transport Studies at Imperial College, said congestion charging was "not necessarily about raising more money from pricing".

"Road pricing is all about getting a much more efficient use of our road network by giving people the incentive to use the roads less when it's congested," he said.

The proposed public transport improvements would include:

• Metrolink extension to Rochdale and Oldham town centres, Ashton under Lyne, East Didsbury, Manchester Airport and the Trafford centre

• Second Metrolink route across Manchester city centre

• Priority for buses on several major roads

• Extra carriages for rail services

• Stations including Bolton, Salford, Altrincham, Stockport, Ashton and Rochdale, to become "interchanges", linking into other types of transport




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