The Government is set to announce the introduction of congestion charge in Greater Manchester, including the creation of the largest charging zone yet created.
The proposals will incorporate two separate charging ‘rings’, the outer being Manchester’s orbital M60 motorway and the inner one being based on the city centre itself. Drivers will be issued with ‘tag & beacon’ transponders, and then charged each time they cross one of the boundaries.
Proposed charges for the scheme are £2 to cross the outer ring heading into the city during morning rush hour, another £1 to cross the inner ring and then an extra £1 to cross each ring heading out during the afternoon. In a significant change from London’s CC scheme, charging will only take place during peak periods: 7am-9.30am and 4pm-6.30pm.
The charging proposal is part of a bid being made to the Transport Innovation Fund, which will bring up to £3 billion on investment into improving public transport in Greater Manchester, including the creation of new Metrolink tram routes. The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, which is co-ordinating the bid, says that no charge will be introduced until improvements have been made to bus, tram and rail services.
The proposals are likely to face significant opposition. Stockport, Trafford and Bury councils are all opposing the proposals, while Bolton council has pledged to hold a local referendum on support for the changes.
Graham Stringer, a local Labour MP and the former leader of Manchester City Council, has also expressed serious doubts about the scheme, likening it to blackmail by central Government. In a recent Parliamentary debate he said:
“We have got £500 million towards a £1.5 billion tram scheme and the Government have said, “If you want the extra £1 billion and, incidentally, some more for buses and trains, you will, in practice, have to have a congestion charge.”
“I do not think that that is fair when one looks at the investment that is being made in London. The case for investing in the tram and train systems in Greater Manchester stands on its own, and a separate case would have to be made for introducing a congestion charge. Surprisingly, the figures produced by the urban traffic control unit in Manchester show that congestion in 11 of the 14 centres of Greater Manchester has fallen since 2001.”