Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 08:48 UK

Road charge consultation begins

Traffic in Manchester
The public consultation process will last three months

A public consultation on plans to introduce a congestion charge in Manchester is getting under way.

Brochures are being sent to 1.2m houses and firms and a series of information events are being staged.

Government funding towards almost 3bn of public transport investment depends on the charge being introduced in 2013, which would cost 318m to set up.

Motorists would be charged for crossing the M60 and a second ring around the city centre at peak times.

Transport bosses say the 2.8bn investment will be split across 30 different public transport schemes across Greater Manchester's 10 boroughs.

And they have pledged to have at least 80% of improvements in place before the charge is introduced in 2013.

No other form of funding can support the level of investment we need nor is there any indication that this will change before 2013
Lord Peter Smith, AGMA

These will include the Metrolink extension to Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester Airport, Rochdale town centre and Oldham town centre.

Extra trains and buses and improved stations are also promised.

Opponents of the road charge say transport improvements should be funded by other means.

But Lord Peter Smith, leader of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), said the bid for cash from the government Transport Innovation Fund (TiF) was the only option.

He said: "We have looked at all the available options and the bottom line is that that Transport Innovation Fund is the only source of funding capable of delivering a world class transport system to Greater Manchester.

"No other form of funding can support the level of investment we need nor is there any indication that this will change before 2013."

'Sales campaign'

Three of Greater Manchester's 10 councils - Bury, Stockport and Trafford - are all opposed to the charge, which would be capped at 10 a day.

Sir Richard Leese, chair of AGMA, said he would back a public referendum on the final decision.

Although not a referendum, transport bosses said the response to the three-month consultation would help them to decide whether to proceed with the funding bid.

Campaign group Manchester Against Road Tolls said the exercise would be used to try sell the concept to the people of Greater Manchester.

"Most consultations give the answers that the authorities want, as people are only given selected facts and not the full story," said a spokesman.

"Now that it has been suggested that there will be a 'referendum', this consultation is also an opportunity for them to spend millions on a pre-poll sales campaign."




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