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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Blair reaffirms Metrolink support
Tony Blair
Mr Blair says Labour are committed to the Metrolink
Tony Blair has reaffirmed his party's commitment to the expansion of Manchester's tram network.

The Prime Minister backed the plans - which will see three new routes built in Greater Manchester - during a visit to Rochdale on Thursday.

A Labour Party spokesperson confirmed the comments, saying: "We have committed 520m for the Metrolink".

Graham Brady, Conservative candidate for Altrincham and Sale West, said Mr Blair was "offering nothing new."

Mr Brady, Shadow Minister for Europe, said the Prime Minister was "taking Manchester and Mancunians for fools."

Metrolink tram
Three new lines are planned in Greater Manchester
He told the BBC: "Blair comes to Manchester and yet again manages to put in some marvellous spin.

"What is on the table is nothing new. It says exactly the same in their manifesto as it did last year," he said.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said they had pledged to make the Metrolink extension a "top priority" in Manchester.

"We have said we want the extension because it is an expansion of a successful transport system, which takes 4 million people out of their cars and off the roads.

'Personal commitment'

"If Blair is moving the Labour Party towards the issue that we have put forward, then we are very pleased."

Roger Jones, chairman of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA), said Labour's commitment was "brilliant".

He told the BBC: "This means a lot to me and the people of Manchester.

"The fact that Tony Blair himself has made a personal commitment to this project and to all three lines, means he's serious."

'Additional funds'

Mr Jones, a Labour councillor in Salford, believes Mr Blair is keen to "get on with the job" of seeing the Metrolink expansion through to completion.

"If Blair is re-elected I think he will sit down and get this sorted," he said.

"I think he realises it was handled badly by Darling, and it's my impression that he will be keen to finally get the job done."

In December the secretary of state for transport, Alistair Darling, said he could not provide the 900m needed to complete the Metrolink project.

He added bids for additional funds may be put to the new Transport Innovation Fund.

The government has since said 520m will be made available for transport improvements that could include Metrolink.

If the plan gets the go ahead, it would see the network extended to Oldham, Rochdale, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Airport.



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