Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Voters reject congestion charge

Traffic on Princess Parkway, Manchester
The plan was to reduce congestion in and out of Manchester

The people of Greater Manchester have voted against plans to introduce a congestion charge in the region.

Nearly two million people were asked to decide on a peak-time road charge to open up a 2.8bn transport investment.

A majority of voters in all of the region's 10 boroughs voted against the plans, with 812,815 (79%) no votes and 218,860 (21%) in favour of the charge.

It means the application for government Transport Innovation Fund (TiF) cash will not now go ahead.

The overall turnout across the 12 local authorities was about 53.2% with 1,033,000 people casting their vote.

The failed plan aimed to create the biggest road congestion zone in the UK, charging drivers up to 5 a day to drive into the city centre.

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Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley in Manchester, a long-time opponent of the scheme, said he was "delighted" with the result.

"It's a brave politician that goes forward with such a scheme, unless it is an extraordinarily good scheme that virtually everybody benefits from," he said.

"It is a pity we have had to waste three years on this ill-thought out scheme which the public have seen through.

"We must now go back to government to talk about how they can invest in trams, trains and buses in Greater Manchester."

'Ill-conceived'

Immediately after the result was announced, officials in the 'Yes' campaign told BBC News they were "disappointed with the voting turnout".

Jason Torrence, who supported the charge, said: "This is a sad day. This was a innovative solution which would have put Manchester in the premier league of cities in the world."

Chris Hopkins, chief executive of Hydes Brewery in Moss Side, who was part of the 'No' campaign, said the charge of up to 1,200 a year on his employees was just too much for the promised improvements in transport.

"We thought it was ill-conceived and the people of Manchester did as well," he said.

The plans needed a majority in favour in at least seven local authorities to get the go-ahead.

VOTES BY AREA
Bolton
Yes 20,529
No 76,910
Turnout - 48.8%
Bury
Yes 16,563
No 64,001
Turnout 57.4%
Manchester
Yes 43,593
No 113,064
Turnout 46.1%
Oldham
Yes 17,571
No 68,884
Turnout 54.4%
Rochdale
Yes 17,333
No 61,686
Turnout 50.8%
Salford
Yes 14,603
No 79,326
Turnout 57%
Stockport
Yes 24,090
No 103,706
Turnout 59%
Tameside
Yes 16,323
No 83,105
Turnout 60.7%
Trafford
Yes 20,445
No 83,568
Turnout 63.6%
Wigan
Yes 27,810
No 78,565
Turnout 45.3%

Lord Peter Smith, Leader of The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), said he was "very disappointed" with the outcome.

"It is always a huge challenge to win any referendum and this one was always going to be particularly difficult - given the high feelings it has engendered," he said.

"The TIF proposals may have been rejected but I am sure the people of Greater Manchester remain united in their desire to see this great city region succeed."

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

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

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "I'm sure the economic downturn, which is hitting everyone hard, has had a part to play.

"Investment in public transport in Manchester will remain a priority for the city council and our commitment to face up to the challenges going forward remains undiminished."

AGMA will consider the outcome of the referendum at its meeting next week.

The Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA) chairman Councillor Matt Colledge, said: "We now need to rethink and reconsider the limited funding we currently get and prioritise this across the region, while looking to identify further funding for our longer term public transport vision.

"As a result of the detailed and dedicated work and extensive consultation that has gone into preparing such an enormously intricate bid, we now have a clear set of transport investment priorities and business cases for Greater Manchester.

"We are committed to ensuring that this legacy is put to good use by working hard with central government to establish alternative ways to deliver these schemes, which remain critical to the future of our economy."

Propsed congestion charging rings



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