Page last updated at 21:51 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 22:51 UK

Manchester C-charge plans backed

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

The government has approved a peak-time congestion charging scheme for drivers entering and leaving Manchester.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly outlined its provisional support for a two-ring scheme, charging up to 5 from 2013.

She told MPs it would be combined with 2.8bn of investment to create a "world-class public transport system".

The Tories accused her of "bullying" the people of Manchester into accepting the scheme, which will need final approval from councillors in the city.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers called for a referendum on the plans.

A public consultation will be held on the plans. They must gain the support of two-thirds of councillors in Greater Manchester in order to proceed further.

Regular drivers could use electronic tags to trigger charges
Charges into the city 7am-9.30am and out 4pm-6.30pm
Crossing into the outer zone heading into the city in the morning would cost 2 at current prices
Crossing into the inner zone would cost a further 1
Crossing each zone boundary heading out of the city in the evening would cost 1

If the scheme goes ahead, Manchester will become the first major British city outside London to introduce large-scale congestion charging.

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

Cities like Bristol and Bath are hoping to follow London with their own schemes, but Edinburgh and Norwich have already scrapped similar proposals.

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

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

They would be in place from 7am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6.30pm weekdays, excluding bank holidays.

Ms Kelly told the Commons that the government had provisionally made available 1.5bn to support the scheme.

The rest of the 2.8bn will come from the city authorities themselves.

What guarantees have people got in Manchester that there won't be excessive increases in the charge in the future?
Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers

Ms Kelly said: "Today, as a country, we are faced with an unprecedented growth in people's desire to travel.

"It's essential that we provide people with greater choice over how and when they travel, cut congestion on our roads and take the right decisions for our quality of life, the environment and the long-term health of our economy."

The leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese, earlier told the BBC that fewer than 20% of motorists in Greater Manchester would have to pay the charge.

And he said the scheme would be of great benefit to more than 30% of households who relied entirely on public transport and currently struggled to get to work.

But Ms Villiers asked Ms Kelly: "What guarantees have people got in Manchester that there won't be excessive increases in the charge in the future?

"Has extending the congestion charge to a third outer ring been ruled out?"

Ms Villiers said three out of 10 local councils in Greater Manchester opposed the plans, and insisted there should be a conurbation-wide referendum.

The transport secretary has announced government backing for the plans

"The truth is the government is telling Manchester: 'If you say 'yes' to congestion charging you get money to improve transport. If you say 'No', you do not.

"That is bullying, pure and simple."

Opponents have pointed out that the scheme could cost motorists up to 1,200 a year at a time when fuel prices and road taxes are rising.

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."

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 have promised to hold a public referendum on the issue once all the facts are available.

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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