Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Votes counted after C-charge poll

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

Votes are being counted in a public referendum which could see the introduction of a congestion charge in Greater Manchester.

About 1.94m people were eligible to vote on whether to accept a peak-time charge as part of a 2.8bn package of investment in public transport.

Polls closed at 2200 GMT on Thursday and the result is due at noon.

If it gets the go ahead, it will be the biggest charging zone in Britain and could see other cities follow suit.

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

Those against the proposals claimed the congestion charge would be an unfair tax on motorists, while those in favour have maintained that it is a chance to create the best public transport system in the UK.

Motoring journalist Quentin Wilson on Manchester's congeston charge

Chris Hopkins runs a brewery inside the proposed zone, and is opposed to the scheme. He said he was worried he would lose staff because of the charge.

"When you're looking at a charge of twelve hundred pounds a year because of where they work, there are certain individuals who are very very capable and very valued by the company, who would look elsewhere outside the M60 to work in order to get that money back."

But John Bentley, who runs a lift company, said he hoped the scheme would make it easier for his business to operate.

"Ease of movement for my engineers is key," he said.

"We may well change the way our business runs. We may work in tandem with the congestion charge time tariffs. Maybe we'll come in earlier; maybe we'll leave later."

Investment in trams, trains and buses has been promised in exchange for the charge, which would be introduced from 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.

Congestion charge map

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