Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Last chance for C-charge voting

Traffic on Deansgate, Manchester
Transport officials say the charge would reduce city centre congestion

Voting in a referendum on the introduction of a congestion charge in Greater Manchester has entered its final day.

About 900,000 people have already cast their vote on whether to accept a peak-time charge as part of a 2.8bn package of investment in public transport.

Ballot packs have been sent out to 1.94m people across the region and they have until 2200 GMT to return them.

Any posted before the last collection will still reach the returning officer.

Voters who want to post their ballot papers should check the last collection time for whichever post box they use.

A massive publicity campaign has been waged by both Yes and No groups, which continued up to the last day of polling.

Transport investment

Sean Corker, of Manchester Against Road Tolls (MART), told the BBC: "Let's face it we are taking a huge risk here.

"We're risking increased council taxes, increased commute costs, increased cost of living for little more than 12 miles of track and vague promises of some extra buses."

Lis Phelan, of the Yes Campaign, said the people of the region faced a historic chance to improve public transport.

"If people in Greater Manchester haven't voted and they want the best public transport system in the UK, if they want lower fares and if they want 10,000 new jobs at a time of recession then get that vote posted now," she said.

Ten local councils in the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) have combined to make a bid to the Government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) to pay for investment in trains, trams and buses.

Loan repayments

Under agreed rules, AGMA will only submit its bid to the government if the majority in seven of the council areas are in favour.

It would mean a 1.5bn grant from the TIF fund and 1.2bn of local funding taken out as a 30-year loan by AGMA and part paid for by the congestion charge. The final 0.1bn is attributed to possible private investment.

At least 80% of the proposed public transport improvements have to be in place before the charge is introduced in 2013.

Motorists would pay to cross two charging rings at peak times. The outer ring roughly follows the M60 orbital motorway, while the inner ring surrounds Manchester city centre.

The result of the referendum will be announced by the returning officer Sir Neil McIntosh at Manchester Central conference centre at noon on Friday.

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