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The Congestion Debate: Clash of the Titans

Join Sir Richard Leese, City Council, and Andrew Simpson, the Trafford Centre, at the Circle Club congestion charge debate

Published on July 6th 2007.


The Congestion Debate: Clash of the Titans

Most people with an interest in travelling into and around Manchester city centre might be apprehensive about congestion charging. It seems that after the tanning Manchester Confidential readers gave the Town Hall over the proposals for extra parking charges, the subsequent about face made by Sir Richard Leese shows that Manchester Confidential has influence.

Frankly, here at ManCon Towers we are yet to make our mind up about congestion charging. We need more information before we make up our mind.

So, as the voice of Manchester, we have decided to enter the fray. We're beginning with all-star line-up debating the topic at The Circle Club this Monday evening, 9 July.

The debate will be chaired by Howard Sharrock. His panel will be Sir Richard Leese, Deputy Leader, Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and Leader, Manchester City Council, and Phil Doyle, Architect with HKR Architects, who are pro-charging, and Paul Henly, representing the Federation of Small Businesses and Andrew Simpson, Managing Director, Peel Holdings, who anti.

These guys are ready to put their point across and be interrogated by the ManCon massive. Entry to the event, starting at 6.30 pm, is free but places are limited so RSVP to the email below. Here is the official blurb:

What and why?
Greater Manchester's 10 councils will soon decide whether to bid for a £3bn government package of public transport investment and a congestion charge.

It's arguably the single greatest issue facing our city region, and has been generating strong opinions on all sides. It's top of the agenda because of booming car use and the resulting problems of air pollution, congestion and, our civic leaders, say, the threat to the growing economy of Greater Manchester.

Our buzzing city region is the fastest-growing outside London and independent research says it's set to add over 200,000 jobs by 2015. But congestion threatens 30,000 of those jobs.

The councils say: doing nothing is not an option. They have been praised by some for brave leadership, learning from cities like Dublin and New York which are now struggling with congestion. Others say the proposals are yet another tax on the free-wheeling driver and a restriction on our freedoms.

Under the plans, £3bn would be available to spend on public transport - more and better buses and trains, major Metrolink expansion, and yellow buses to tackle the school run.

No charge would be brought in until the improvements were in place - 2012 at the earliest. The limited charge would only affect peak rush hour periods and weekends would be free.

Some say it's the only sensible way to pay for the transport system we deserve. Others say it's the Nanny state gone mad.

Come along and ask the panel your questions:
Who should attend?
Anyone who wants to know more about the proposed plans, those who would like their say on the topic, small businesses, property owners, local residents, community groups, people for and against…

How to attend?
All you need to do is RSVP to rsvp@thecircuitseries.com

Feel free to stick around after the debate, to drink, eat and participate in some finger pointing and further debate into the early hours, as we certainly will…

The Circle Club: www.thecircle.comGMPD Interiors: www.gmpd.co.uk
Manchester Confidential: www.manchesterconfidential.com
SKVPR: www.skvpr.co.uk

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38 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

kgbJuly 6th 2007.

On a different note, pats on the back etc to Manchester Confidential for hosting the debate at the Circle Club the other night. Well done for getting the great and the good involved.

AnonymousJuly 6th 2007.

Personally I can't wait for it. Anything that improves the Oxford Road/Wilmslow road corridor can only be a good thing. It's not for years anyway and I'd love to walk around Manchester or cycle into work without choking on fumes from cars. We've banned smoking indoors for our health, let's reduce the cars on the road for the same reason.

kgbJuly 6th 2007.

Oh and by the way Murf: 12 years ago the NHS had about 5% of GDP, much lower than comparable western economies spent on health. But I could phone up for an appointment at my GP, have dental treatment on the NHS, and go to hospital without significant danger of infection. Now the NHS has 9% of a much larger GDP, and guess what, I get treated with utter contempt if I want a GP appointment, I have to pay for private dental treatment and the hospitals are killing people due to lack of basis hygene. Simply throwing money at problems was never the answer.

HellersdadJuly 6th 2007.

All the talk of providing better public transport would be more convincing if we had intergrated ticketing as of now and making the price to use it not so prohibitively expensive for the privilege of travelling with foul mouth chavs and waiting in the rain on the off chance something will turn up. Get the GMPTE of their well paid rumps and over to see how to run public transport in some continental cities like Barcelona, Prague, Paris etc.

AnonymousJuly 6th 2007.

Not made my mind up yet...however I was called by the "research " company TWICE.They refused to tell me who was paying for it and then got really aggressive when I refused to answer their questions . I deal with a lot of research surveys and believe me this was a nonsense -totally skewed.

RicardoJuly 6th 2007.

okay, this is inevitable as its a good way to raise more money out of us, (let's hope it IS used to get a first rate public transport) - it's gonna happen in almost every major city and lets hope it's not make a huge difference on the roads, (busy roads mean a prosperous city) - however, let's realise it will 'drive' people out of Manchester if we rush into this, so - wouldn't it be prudent to let other cities do it first, so there is nowhere to drive them away to? Lets not rush into being the most forward thinking city foolishly please. We've got nothing to prove.

AnonymousJuly 6th 2007.

If adequate public transport is provided which is reliable, regular and good value, then there would not be a problem with congestion charges. However, people have to have an option and currently public transport isn't a viable one. If this changed, then the individual has a choice to not pay the charge. We should all be doing our bit for the environment and also to ensure our roads don't become gridlocked - I truly believe the majority of people are happy to do this, as long as the aletrnatives are accessible and affordable.

kgbJuly 6th 2007.

Murf: everyone's agreed public transport needs a major upgrade. The question is how to raise the money to do so. The con charge is just about the most unfair and barmy way of doing this. What's more many people don't believe it will succeed in raising the amount of money necessary to pay back the LOAN (yes it is mostly a loan not a grant). Plenty of alternatives exist, including the sale of the airport -why does Manchester council own Bournemouth airport for gods sake?

Tina BaileyJuly 6th 2007.

I agree with the principal as long as a sufficient travel service is available.A massive Park and Tram/Bus/Train ride around the outskirts of town would be good. I work both in London and Manchester and to me it has not made a difference to London but will only to detract trade away from the city of mnchester, the roads are just as conjested it takes hours to get from A-B

kgbJuly 6th 2007.

Smickers: you are just falling into their trap when you say you "have" to use your car. They would argue, that when we have the new improved public transport system paid for out of the con charge-linked grant-plus-loan, you will NOT "have" to use your car. The thing is, why do we not believe them? I sure as hell don't !

Richard HarveyJuly 6th 2007.

Firstly to congratulate ManCon about using the correct title to help define the debate, it is about CONGESTION and how it could be dealt with, and not about THE CHARGE which we can all decide to hate (anyone in support of income tax? No, I thought not)Secondly to grumble about the ridiculously short notice to attend what sounds like a really useful debate. This is the sort of thing the City Council call 'consultation' and is hugely unhelpful!

NiquiJuly 6th 2007.

James, I have never heard such absolute rubbish. Quote: "No charge would be brought in until the improvements were in place - 2012 at the earliest". This isn't some right vs left wing debate its about the environment and finding the best solution for the people of Manchester. If we had a transport system that was reliable, efficient and affordable rich and poor alike would use it. It's not about stealth taxation, it's about common sense and creating a viable solution for future generations of mancunians.

AnonymousJuly 6th 2007.

It's sad that our country can no longer afford to invest in its transport infrastructure from its existing tax revenues and has to resort to what amounts to another form of tax. Improved infrastructure will of course be a good thing but so far no one is talking about how it will be maintained, cleaned and policed. These are some of the reasons our existing systems are in the state they're in. Our buses, trans and trams are dirty, often vandalised and depending on when you travel, are full of people you don't want to sit next to. It would be interesting to know how many of the people involved in shaping the bid actually use public transport.

SallyJuly 6th 2007.

The charge should be applied from 07:30am & after 17:00pm if it is going to be applied at all. I have to travel the full length of the proposed congestion charge route to get to and from work because it is the quickest & most fuel efficient (anyone trying to argue that this charges introduction is a green issue should take note. )way & it certainly is not congested when I use it at 07:00 - 07:35. The only section of my journey that is congested is between J18 & J17 onwards of the M60 which will only be made worse by the introduction of the so called Congestion charge. I should also point out that for my journey's to & from work both the seats in my car are occupied

NiquiJuly 6th 2007.

James, I have never heard such absolute rubbish. Quote: "No charge would be brought in until the improvements were in place - 2012 at the earliest". This isn't some right vs left wing debate its about the environment and finding the best solution for the people of Manchester. If we had a transport system that was reliable, efficient and affordable rich and poor alike would use it. It's not about stealth taxation, it's about common sense and creating a viable solution for future generations of mancunians.

MurfJuly 6th 2007.

Oh, and by the way, yes there are people in favour of income tax. The same people who beleve in fundamental rights like the NHS, and free education. I work hard and give back to the people of my country ( what ever their background), some of whom may not be as fortunate as me. Its called social responsibility.

Head just above waterJuly 6th 2007.

Maybe this country should stop "investing" its residents taxes in non UK residents. I am sick of dealing with Authority dodging ass-holes that sneak into the country, are provided with a house, an income, support with learning, communication, bills. I don't see any assylum seeker or illegal imigrant given the cold shoulder.... why are they given a car and comfort instead of a bus pass and community service....... (These cases maybe extreme but I can tell you, it does happen)Has anyone ever noticed how quiet the roads are when kids are off school? Its very comforting that parents ensure that their kids get to and from school safely, but its soul destroying to see that they use the bloody car for a 1 mile round trip. Would Manchesters surrounding councils look at possibilities of funding the Yellow Busses? The bus lanes are already there, we know they are there because 50% of manchester's roads have gone from 2 lanes to 1 - and this was to help congestion? Waaa?Lets face it, the average person goes to work every day and earns the average of £25k p.a.- Straight away they get £5750 deducted for Tax and N.I for 1 year if they are lucky.They scrape enough together to buy a car (which tax is included in). They insure it (more tax), tax it (yep... thats tax) and put fuel in it (80% of the cost is tax).Keep it Serviced and MOT'd to comply with UK Emissions (all with tax included), Can anyone justify not using their car!Spend Manchesters money on Manchesters people and encourage transportation use, not shoe-horn them in because we are becoming a ecconomically, diverse-cultured TIME-BOMB!.......... BOOOOM!No smoking in public places = lots stop smoking, less revenue for government in Tax - where is that going to come from? Are we discussing the answer?????Bascially, leave the average Joe Alone, get the scroats and foreign free-loaders to earn their keep and develop plans to improve transport for the 1 majority cohort that start every day at the same time..... School Children!p.s. does anyone know how the money from the "Save the earth concerts" is going to be spent, cos I bet it ain't planing trees!

annieJuly 6th 2007.

I don't understand why all the fuss. Agree totally with Smickers Mancs knew where the city was going when the council bosses decided to close most of the streets or make them one way. We have congestion due to this . If at least 2 rds leading from Piccadilly towards Oldham rd were brought back as 2 way then we would not see the hold ups we see in the center. Also I remember when we could go left passed the gardens up oldham st to Oldham rd. This topped with city living, bus only routes all have impact. I go through the center once a week and I will have to pay a charge to get to my class at the MMU cos it starts at 6pm, this will be on top of the charge for the class, as well as the council tax charge for services. They used to say of the Tories 'if it moves tax it. The Met is unreliable and I do not think that doing the new lines will help, they put on a tram with 2 coaches going into Bury and only one coach to Manchester this is rush hr. We subsidies the Altrincham line, which we don't use.The trams do not run in conjunction with the Trains out of Vitoria so most travelers can't get the link and therefore have to get the car to get to the station. my question is will this put up the cost of parking as they will not be getting as much traffic as they do now if we all get the tram/bus. Have the share holders grasped this one yet??

AnonymousJuly 6th 2007.

I drove in London before and after the congestion charge. It did not make the slightest bit of difference. It is just a money making scheme for the council, which i do not agree with.

Rather AnnoyedJuly 6th 2007.

Don't start that Bill..... the gases that you create from your Digestion will be charged soon. Hasn't the emissions given off by a car been compared to a Cow-patt.It might be sooner than you think.

smickersJuly 6th 2007.

Here's my problems with the charge:I HAVE to use my car at work - I don't have a choice.And even if I did:1) I live in north Manchester where First buses have in effect a monopoly. The buses are dirty, unreliable and expensive. A journey length which costs 50pence to get you to your Fallowfields and your Chorltons costs a whopping £1.75 from north Manc.2) I don't WANT to use the Metrolink. The contract for Metrolink has just been given from Serco to Stagecoach. Now, while Serco are no angels I sure as hell am not going to give my hard earned cash to line the pockets of Stagecoach boss Brian Souter, who has made it his life's work to campaign against gay rights and fund the same. It's disgusting that Stagecoach are going to be running Metrolink and I will not set foot on it again.3) I would say that the vast bulk of Manchester's congestion is self-inflicted. Unlike in other parts of the country, the traffic lights are not "smart". If you go to Belfast you'll see that if you drive up to a junction and there's no traffic coming the other way the lights will change. Belfast is quite a good comparative city actually. It ain't that different to Manchester and hasn't got anything approaching the congestion problems we have here, with worse roads.4) I just don't believe the council. And they just don't listen. I bet the "consultation" will either be ignored or misrepresented as it seems quite clear that most people are not in favour of the charge.5) It's a loan of £3bn, NOT an investment.

JimJuly 6th 2007.

If AGMA truly pledge that all improvements will be in place before the charge comes in then it will be popular but the public and businesses are sceptical about this so need further assurance. I'm in favour and would also like to see ideas for thefuture use of the vast amount of car parks that might be made redundant after the improvements. Green parks would be a nice idea, the city centre doesn't have enough parland areas.

C Charge sucksJuly 6th 2007.

Why is this being turned into a green issue? If that's the case how about a C Charge for gas guzzlers within a 1/2 mile radius of all suburban primary schools between 8.00 and 9.00?

BillJuly 6th 2007.

Can we have a Digestion Charge as I eat too much?

Rob AdlardJuly 6th 2007.

Luke, this is a very important misunderstanding....we may win nearly 1 Billion from the government - we may not. The remaining 2Billion is a mortgage secured against the income from the Charge - essentially the governement is making us have the charge in order to borrow money from them. We may not win the 1Billion TIF fund money, and still go ahead with smaller schemes borrowing the money, the 3 billion figure is very misleading.The really sad thing about this is that its because this New Labour government withdrew the funding for Metrolink that this is deemed neccessary. Setting up a congestion charge is a very expensive way to raise money, compare the costs of setting it up with simply borrowing the money against say the equity the council has in the airport? Its not about congestion, as these charges don't help the environment directly, or reduce traffic, its simply a way to enable the council to borrow money that the government should simply spend on cities like Manchester instead of removing our funding in favour of projects in London.

Talking SenseJuly 6th 2007.

Luke...How the hell do you get to and from work + everywhere else for £4.00 a week on public transport???Sell the airport I say, and don't strangle the city with a £2bn loan to repay the Gov't. Liverpool and Leeds must be rubbing their hands together!

AnonymousJuly 6th 2007.

It's interesting that this article opens with the line "Most people with an interest in travelling into and around Manchester city centre might be apprehensive about congestion charging."Erm.. nope.. I doubt the thousands of people who travel into the centre using public transport, bikes or even their own feet are apprehensive. This debate needs to be about more than the impact on car owners.

GrumpsJuly 6th 2007.

James Chapman-Kelly is so correct!This is such a big con. We all pay our taxes, in fact this country is well known as one of, if not the biggest taxed country in the world, so where does all this tax go??? Its about time our "wonderful" government gave something back!!! I agree that something has to be done but slamming yet another tax on oue already strained coffers isnt the answer.

kgbJuly 6th 2007.

Why can people not see the logical fallacy in the con charge?If it WORKS, ie workers get public transport fit for purpose and use it- they won't be able to pay back the loan!This means the elite are incentivised to have POOR public transport to keep workers in their cars so they can pay back the money!

MurfJuly 6th 2007.

For gods sake has no one the vision to look at our future and realise that we need to take responsibility for the environment, rather than just looking at how this will affect you, personally, now! What the council are proposing, a better public transport system ( free for the elderly) yellow school busses ( yes, "head above water" they are doing that!!... and good god, what ARE you???)and all the rest of the stuff we need to make this viable (and what people are not believing) is an intrinsic party of this plan.. I agree that there are some strange decisions about parking etc made in this city, but for gods sake unless we broaden our thinking, what's the alternative?? Simple.. do nothing. And thats just not an option if we are going to have a future left for our children. Stop being so bloody selfish.

Tell Me MoreJuly 6th 2007.

I believe there is no consultation. If there is where is it being held. It will only happen if the public agree. Only they won't ask us. The only ones interested are the vested interests of M/cr city council and GMPTE. They want the money. Can anyone tell me the set up cost of the scheme ? I heard figures in excess of £400 Million. Are the cameras to be gold plated ? We must stop them killing our city.

AnonymousJuly 6th 2007.

The Congestion Charge will not aid the environment. People will not do without their cars, they will simply travel to shopping complex's away from the city like The Trafford Centre, Leeds or Liverpool for the day out. The Congestion Charge is simply another Tax on the Driver to pay for Public Transport improvements that will still not reduce the use of private cars. It will also reduce the money coming into Manchester by driving people to the out of city complex's.

ChrisJuly 6th 2007.

It take my wife 30 mins to cycle to work 55 by car and 1 1/2 hours by bus. I am happy with the congestion charging if it improve the bus times, as I dont like her cycling in winter (because of the car drivers who dont bother looking to for cyclists)

Rather AnnoyedJuly 6th 2007.

I still want to reitterate my point with the school run. All roads are quieter when schools are off. There can't be that many parents that work term time only!How large is the element of laziness?How can surrounding councils like Bury can support the committment to £2b when they are £9.5M in debt, doesn't scream financial stability/management does it?

James Chapman-KellyJuly 6th 2007.

The whole idea is one BIG CON! We will be creating yet another tier of false workers who will be there to set the scheme up, charge us money and then hand the money on to somewhere else. I pay tax on petrol, insurance, repairs, road tax etc so why the bloody hell should I be charged yet again to use my Manchester roads which I have paid for already with my council and income tax? If you are a rich person then £1000 plus per annum to drive to town is nothing. This is a ruse to tax the poor off the streets so the rich can get to town faster. We'll be using donkeys soon and if that's progress then I'm a tory!

AnonymousJuly 6th 2007.

Its all fine and dandy saying that the public transport in and around Manchester will be improved but what about us poor souls who travel into work from another county? My contribution to the congestion charge wont go into improving the travel in Cheshire will it? I cant afford over a grand a year to travel to Manchester so either need to look for a job closer home or start working from 7.30 - 3.30 instead to avoid the charge. but once loads of people start doing that it will end up being a 24 hour charge. I need a car at weekends regardless so the suggestion that I should sell my car and catch the train in to the city is completely untenable

paulJuly 6th 2007.

Does the apathetic British public not understand this proposed charge covers not just the city centre but every part of Greater Manchester. It is a tax on you're freedom to move and you will be monitored where ever you go.Take action now to stop this tax it is a con trick. We all pay huge amounts in tax and see very little for it. I for one will not pay and will take direct action if it is forced in place. No one I have spoken too is in favour. Let's have a referendum on this!. Have you seen the booklet GMPT have issued on this? it is highly misleading you can hardly see the shaded bit that show future proposed extensions to the scheme. I'm not conned though!

LukeJuly 6th 2007.

I do wish people would read more than just a headline, talking as if MCC have just pulled this all out of thin air.The congestion charge is a small part of a larger scheme, and whichever city wins the £3BILLION (not exactly small change) public transport investment will be obliged to have one. The real problem is that the "say no to everything" crew have jumped in and started inventing reasons as to why it's all a 'con', hence misguided statements about 'dirty chav filled' public transport. Getting to and from work (and everywhere else for that matter) on public transport costs me £4 a week, and means there's a least one less car on the road at rush hour.Anyone who has to drive into the city in the morning must realise that congestion is getting worse and worse. The options are these: knock down a load of buildings to make more/wider roads for more cars or invest in a modern integrated public transport system.It's fairly simple really.

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