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Striking a pose

Jonathan Schofield on why Manchester Confidential supports the Transport Innovation Fund – aka the congestion charge

Written by . Published on July 27th 2007.

Striking a pose

Best thing that Sir Richard Leese said in the MEN recently was that politicians are there to make decisions and sometimes those decisions might not be popular. Leadership has been the strength of this council for the last few years. Manchester City Council and the other local authorities in AGMA (the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) are, with the exception of Trafford and Stockport, about to show outstanding leadership locally and nationally with the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF).

They have a plan to bring £1.2bn of government money to the region and a further sum of £1.8bn (through a loan) to give the Manchester region the best transport infrastructure in the country. When a comprehensive overhaul of rail, road and bus transport is achieved a limited congestion charge will be put in place during peak hours during the week only.

Manchester Confidential has juggled the various positions pro and anti and decided to firmly support the TIF. Having attended debates and talked to different people and interest groups there seems enough of a case to go forward. Above all it seems clear that central government will bring in some form of national road pricing at some point in which case the region would have missed a trick by not taking the opportunity which presents itself right now. We also feel that the changes, if achieved as envisaged, will make Greater Manchester a more attractive place in which to invest and live. It ticks the ‘green’ box as well, which is a pre-requisite of policy making these days.

Remember when we aspire to what other countries provide in transport we tend to prefer the Dutch and German models for cities rather than that of, say, Athens. If we get things right in Greater Manchester, that level of a well-controlled, well managed transport infrastructure is the carrot dangling before us. Doing nothing is not an option.

Of course if we get the money and AGMA starts being profligate with it or starts to renege on its promises then we should come down on it like a ton of bricks. They will be scrutinised over everything they do and they must be aware of this and how sensitive an issue congestion charging is. Many of the arguments against the TIF are reasonable so AGMA owe it to the population of Greater Manchester that they use the money well. They can't bugger us about on this.

As for congestion charging being another tax. Well, at least it’s a bloody obvious one. Rob Adlard, the prospective Conservative Councillor for the city centre and frequent poster on this website, could tell us how many indirect taxes there’ve been since Labour took over from his lot in 1997. Maybe he could tell us how many the Tories imposed prior to that. Point is that Congestion Charge is a direct tax that you can do something to avoid - by not travelling during the times when it’s imposed. Easier said than done admittedly. But people will have the choice to use a park and ride scheme or one of the other options in an improved transport network.

And at least there has been consultation. Can any of the fogies out there remember if there was consultation over the imposition of parking metres, or on-street parking charges? Aren’t they a tax - but a much sneakier one?

Finally let’s look to history for a precedent. In the 1880s Manchester Ship Canal Company was in trouble, the whole vast undertaking was under threat, so the City of Manchester, a local authority, bailed it out with the colossal sum of £5m from rate-payers money. The Canal was finished and would prove of immense value to the whole region, boosting prosperity, creating jobs and attracting investment. The Canal was an extraordinary risk, but it was visionary, it was Manchester thinking big. That’s when this city is at its best.

A sweet irony in this of course is that the purchase of Manchester Ship Canal by Peel Holdings was the key to its growth into the present mega-corporation. Their success is partly down to a City Council decision a century or so ago, and now they want to sell off the Airport – talk about ingratitude.

Seriously though, the proposed transport infrastructure improvements might deliver the same benefits and more as the Ship Canal did all those years ago. Being a leader isn’t always the cautious thing to do, taking risks isn’t always clever, but if they work they quickly lift you above the competition. Manchester Confidential thinks the application for the Transport Innovation Fund is a risk worth taking. It puts us in the driving seat.

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

Rob AdlardJuly 27th 2007.

Also....I'm sorry but I don't think its brave at all to support the status quo in this way. If the government was trying to impose a congestion charge on us without any return nobody would support it. Are you really happy the be clearly allowing blackmail from the government - no investment with out the charge. The government even suggested we'd loose other benefits if we didn't adopt the charge.....don't you even feel slightly patronised? Also, the people are not behind this, and AGMA is not being 'brave' either. Trafford and Stockport actually carried out a proper survey of what people in their area thought and discovered that the response was a massive NO from its residents, and so they opposed it. All others are submitting to blackmail and blindly being manipulated by the government. Why else would Sir Richard Leese say that Congestion Charging would be a disaster for Manchester and we should never have it here, to being its biggest fan telling us we're being rediculous expressing the view he very recently held himself....come on people, look beyond the propoganda. We should have the investment the city deserves without this game, aren't we proud enough of our city to demand this without being rats in an experiment?

DESJuly 27th 2007.

To get to work by public transport, I would need to walk for 35-40 mins to the nearest bus-stop, get the once-an- hour (if it turns up) bus to a station (approx 25 min journey) where I can get the tram in (another 20 mins). Total journey time approx 1 hour 30 mins assuming smooth connections. Cost circa £6.50. If I drive - journey time 1 hour average. Cost parking circa £5. So where is this place with such poor public transport? A mere 22 miles from the city centre, 5 mins drive from both the M6 and M56 motorways - not exactly a "remote" location is it! In fact it is near Lymm, Cheshire.Public transport would have to be HUGELY improved and subsidised to make me leave the car on a cold wet day.I would support congestion charging if the network of public transport was so good (as arguably it is in London) that it wasn't essential to drive in.

AnonymousJuly 27th 2007.

Who is Jonathan Schofield, the author of Manchester Confidential's surprisingly superficial plea for congestion charging? Until now I have always enjoyed this website's irreverent attitude towards authority, am saddened to see how easily it has swallowed the Council line on congestion charging.

DavidJuly 27th 2007.

If only this government had a better track record on transport I'd feel more confident but with train fares the most expensive in Europe already and set to rise yet further I have my doubts. I'd sum up their transport policy as carrot and stick except they've forgotten about the carrot - I hope I'm wrong but I can see my return trip in from Knutsford costing well over £10 per day by the time they introduce the Congestion charge and that would be little incentive frankly.

annieJuly 27th 2007.

I totally agree with Charlie. I said this some time ago. The one way system and closed roads just out side the center have contributed to the congestion. I, as am sure many others smelt a Rat back then as soon as London did it. I was in London earlier this year and congestion is still there. Transport I walked a lot it was quicker?

Mark HoracekJuly 27th 2007.

Do you know how much of this money will go towards Consultation?In addition, LONDON HAS THE TUBE HENCE IT WORKS THERE. We wont get anything near the tube system. THe Tram network is ridiculous. Closed for three months in my area for essential maintanence.

Cllr Marc RamsbottomJuly 27th 2007.

What Mr Adlard doesn't tell us his how he and the Conservatives would fund the £3 billion of public transport improvements that form part of the bid? Selling off the airport might be an option but is he prepared to stand as a candidate in future elections and tell voters that he is in favour of increasing their Council tax to make good the £3.5 million lost in annual income from the airport dividend? For the record councillors allowances are set by an independent renumeration panel, and even cutting those in half wouldn't raise enough to meet that funding gap.

CharlieJuly 27th 2007.

I quote Cllr Ramsbottom... "For the moment though, we should support a bid being made to government and lets hope that the Government responds with the necessary funding to get our city region moving again." I appreciate your optimism councillor, but I don't want to "hope" my government does anything... What in God's name are my taxes being spent on now? Why is no-one accountable for what they will and won't do? Broken promises in the past have expelled all hope and trust that things will be sorted out, and now I'm expected to pay again for something I should have anyway! While the buses are private, anyone who doesn't live on a busy route in spitting distance from town is screwed, and anyone who doesn't live on a train route (that hasn't been turned into a weekend tourist attraction) has got no chance of that either. I feel we are now truly paying for lack of foresight and the greed of governments from the last 25 - 30 years. It's a mess, and it'll cost someone a lot to develop something that other developed countries have been developing since public transport was invented!! I think this comes down to more than a quick fix initiative... it is about repairing age old damage to infrastructure, and until real investment, commitment & planning is implemented from central government, it ain't going to go away!!! Oh dear...

SamJuly 27th 2007.

I love how the article has a picture of gridlick on the M60 probably. How is charging people to come in and out of town gonna stop gridlock on the m60 / M62 as most of these people are commercial (trucks) and commuters travelling around manchester to get to leeds / liverpool / other side of town / down south. I live in westhoughton, 15miles out of mcr and drive in every day. it takes me under an hour at the moment to get in mainly due to the M61 leding onto the M60 being so slow...is that going to change....no, because these people aren't going into mcr city centre - the are going around it!!!!!

Gloria1504July 27th 2007.

A love in between Manchester Confidential and Manchester Council......I never thought I'd see the day!!!

Andy TomJuly 27th 2007.

Not everybody works in the city centre - what about all the people who have to drive around or across Manchester each day, say to Trafford Park? Public transport is not geared up for these journeys at present, and the further investment will do nothing to improve this. Congestion charging will ensnare many of these people, for which no viable public transport exists (unless they are prepared to travel three times further than they need to and pay exorbitant fares into Manchester, and exorbitant fares out of it).

TonyJuly 27th 2007.

.....eyes on the horizon....feet on the ground!! Stop knocking brave souls!

DarrenJuly 27th 2007.


jillJuly 27th 2007.

I am disgusted by this new so congestion charge. Its just another way of screwing money out of the general public. I have already paid so much tax to the so called 'council' in both stamp duty and council tax. My concerns are twofold, I live in the city centre and pay by local taxes, so why on earth would I be charged a daily rate just to drive home? There are many many more city centre residents like myself who have cars and I can see there being huge opposition. I am also concerned that no-one really knows where this money will be spent, they say it would be used to improve the 'transport network'. Yeah right I will believe it when I see it..more likely it will be pocketed by the government... excuse me but I have become very cynical about such matters...

EmmaJuly 27th 2007.

Something which should be considered in terms of improving public transport is that although most people start work at around 9am and therefore frequent buses/trams are put on, many people leave work later than 6pm when they are extremely infrequent.I live in Sale and work in Chorlton - a nice 10 min bus ride which I would love to make everyday, however in the evenings the one bus I can catch only runs once an hour after 6.30. Therefore I and up driving most days so that I can go home when I've finished my work. On the occasions I do get the bus I find I'm not getting home until 7.45 when I may have finished my work at 6.30 - just as that hour's bus leaves. I know that this is also a huge problem for bus goers who work in town.

Rob AdlardJuly 27th 2007.

When Martin raynor talks about putting every penny into public transport, lets be clear that when the loan term is up, the revenue for the CC then reverts to central government and doesn't go to Manchester, so it then becomes a central tax. Does that sound like a good deal for Manchester, or a tax?

DaveJuly 27th 2007.

Those that have lived here for years will already know that public transport in and around Manchester is a joke. Too costly and unreliable. Congestion charging is just a stealth tax. Most of us will be retired anyway by the time the 'transport revolution' arrives. As for the 3bn pounds is this the same government that promised to extend the tram network then pulled out? As an aside with his dreadful spelling and grammar I would suggest Cllr Ramsbottom concentrate on education.

AnonymousJuly 27th 2007.

IT LOOKS LIKE A LOT OF PEOPLE IN MANCHESTER NEED TO SEE THE PLANS FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT UPGRADES - IN BLACK AND WHITE. How about we start paying congestions charging the very moment every single promise on public transport is met... and not a moment before. I'll vote yes to that!!

Ray AJuly 27th 2007.

The stance taken by ManCon is brave in the face of selfish public opinion (e.g "what about me?"). Sue's comments (some way up the page) are bang on. Some points, if I may. 1. The charges apply only at peak times, not throughout the day. This is very different to the London charge. I happen to drive in from time to time. I hate being stuck in traffic, so get in before 7am and leave either early (3pm) or later on (c.7pm). So, for me - no charge. HOWEVER, this flexibility of hours, while being really useful, is not for everyone, AND needs business buy-in. That applies to working from home too - surely an idea that should be promoted, as one day a week reduces congestion / pollution by 20%. 2. While many people do not have access to public transport (and thus rightly look for this proposal to come up with such a service), the fact remains that too many use the car when there is a viable public transport system. I use the train about 50% of the time, so I suppose the accusation can be levelled at me (even though I avoid congestion times). The proposed charge may help push some onto public transport. Again, though, that alternative has to be viable, reliable and safe. 3. There needs to be clear hypothecation of the revenues received. If there is any hint that the funds raised are not being reinvested into local transport alternatives, one of the key principles of the pro-charge argument is removed, and the accusations of "yet another tax" are completely justified. I hope it works. I hope that people do change their attitude - we all HAVE to let go at least part of our car dependency. Ultimately, I hope that we all play our part in reducing pollution while enhancing our work / life balance. Both goals are achievable at the same time.

gas fitterJuly 27th 2007.

If you live in the CC and you ditch the car you won’t get away from paying as a service provider if I get a call out to a property in this area the cost will be passed on and I will not be the only one doing this so basically it will just add to inflation

John CJuly 27th 2007.

The miracle will be to get a profit-making private company to work with the govt - national or local - to achieve something for those actually funding and using it - us!! It's not happened yet and it's not likely to happen here. Any cries of "Give it a chance" should be ignored because who's gonna unravel it all in 10 years time when it's all failed again? No-one but we'll all be left picking up the long-term bill.Now, how can I get some lovely loot...er...govt funding?

jonathan smithJuly 27th 2007.

Morrisons are already building a supermarket 500 metres OUTSIDE the congestion zone. Thats forward planning.

I'm not stupid!July 27th 2007.

Righty, I'm off!Anybody know of anywhere nice to live over in Leeds?

AnonymousJuly 27th 2007.

I think this is a way of raising cash under the guise of making Manchester more envionmentally friendly. The hit and miss approach to recycling only bolsters this.

HelenJuly 27th 2007.

I used to live in Cheadle village - we had to move because at the time I didn't drive and the public transport was truly appalling - an intermittent bus service which was very unreliable or a hike to Gatley train station where the airport trains didn't stop if they were running late. Other than vague commitments about improved bus services, I can't see any proposals which will ease the journey into Manchester from what is essentially a transport blackhole. I don't object to the congestion charge in principle, but there needs to be a cohesive plan in place first which deals with the needs of all commuters, rather than putting the cart before the horse. I am also concerned that much of the charge will be swallowed up in admin charges from whatever private company successfully tenders for the charge, and that the promised improvements won't be achieved.

Martin RaynerJuly 27th 2007.

How brave are Manchester Confidential and AGMA to pin your colours to Congestion Charging. With a deal like this £1.2bn plus £1.8bn from the governement it sounds a great opportunity. One thing Manchester must do as well is to do what London didn't do and that is "to put every penny from congestion charging into improved public transport." This will show us all that this is not a tax but a benefit to the people of Manchester. We can then have public transport like Hong Kong or Shanghai - fast comfortable and frequent.

AnonymousJuly 27th 2007.

I work in commercial letting. Practically every tennant I know of and all prospective tennants (either retail or office lets) are all asking for potential breaks on their leases around the time of the planned congestion charges. The big businesses - for all the 'positive research' that's published - are seem to be hedging their bets on this one.

Cllr Marc Ramsbottom - Lib Dem City Centre CouncillorJuly 27th 2007.

I thought your comments about the proposed congestion charge in Greater Manchester where both timely and right. The Liberal Democrats in Manchester have supported the TIF bid to government, because we believe that investment in our public transport system is vital. Those who are opposed to it have a duty to say how they would pay of public transport improvements. The proposals will help to improve our regions economic competitiveness, encourage people to get out of their cars as well as contribute torwards improving the quality of our enviroment. But in our view, there is strong evidence to suggest that investment in public transport alone will not bring about the switch to public transport that is needed. At the moment public transport for many communuters is not a viable alternative, and the £3 billion investment will undoubtedly make it more of an alternative for some, but for others there needs to be a stick as well as a carrot - and that's where the charge comes in. I am always struck by the numbers of car commuters on the main buses there are with single occupants. Only by hitting these selfish drivers in the pocket will we get the green switch needed to public transport.Our main criticism of Manchester Council Leader Cllr Leese is that he has prematurely ruled out any referendum on the issue. One of the five tests outlined by AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) is that the scheme has to be acceptable to the public. In our view that must be tested by a proper vote of all residents across the Greater Manchester area, as well an opinion poll of businesses. To rely solely on opinion polling as Cllr Leese wants to do, to see if this public acceptability test is met, is inadequate. Over recent weeks we have already seen how opinion polls can say contradictory things. In our view those in favour of the congestion charge need to have the courage of their convictions and allow the public a final say once the full details of the scheme are known.There is a real democratic deficit in this debate. The body that will ultimately make the decision on whether to go ahead with charging is not elected by public. AGMA Executive is a quango of Council bosses that have no democratic mandate. Is it any wonder that the public become cycnical about politicians, when on an issue that has provoked huge debate and stimulated interest in local government issues again, they are deprived of any meaningful say in the final decision. It is dishonest, of politicians to arrogantly say that they are elected to make tough decisions, and that referendums are for for wimps. Especially when the body making the decision has not been directly elected by the public. On such an important issue, and on one that will affect so many people, it is only right that the public should have it's say. It's also insulting to claim that the issues are so complex that they cannot be put in a yes/no format. The Swede's in Stockholm had no problems in framing the question in that fashion, so I'm sure we can too.There is also a long way to go before any final decision is taken. First we need to see whether the Government coffs up all the money set out in the bid for public transport. Will the price of congestion charge be worth paying if our buses still remain in the hands of private operators, or the extension or metrolink is only partially funded? A major question also exists over the technology. Can it be delivered in a cost efficient manner? Will it work? Will it command the confidence of the public? All these questions and more need to be answered first, before an unconditional thumbs up can be given to congestion charging. For the moment though, we should support a bid being made to government and lets hope that the Government responds with the necessary funding to get our city region moving again.

Martin RaynerJuly 27th 2007.

How brave are Manchester Confidential and AGMA to pin your colours to Congestion Charging. With a deal like this £1.2bn plus £1.8bn from the governement it sounds a great opportunity. One thing Manchester must do as well is to do what London didn't do and that is "to put every penny from congestion charging into improved public transport." This will show us all that this is not a tax but a benefit to the people of Manchester. We can then have public transport like Hong Kong or Shanghai - fast comfortable and frequent.

jonathan smithJuly 27th 2007.

Who will own the "hundreds of new busses" ? Why aren't we getting an integrated transport system from taxes already paid to the government. If this is going to boost the local economy it is in their interest. We had a 10 year plan ....10 years ago. What has changed ? Oh I know , this time I will have to pay an extra £1500 a year. Nothing else.

Longsight M13July 27th 2007.

DES - why don't you drive to Navigation Road and get the tram from there? I used to commute from much further into deepest, darkest Cheshire, and it only took me an hour if I used the tram from Altrincham.

Lee FJuly 27th 2007.

All this will end in tears!!!! All that will happen is that with the government backed "flexi working" people will come to work at a different time simply moving the congestion time will the "leadsership" will decide another strong action (ie an unpopular decision!!!) leading to all day charging. Also anycharges will ultimately be passed onto the consumer so this "direct " tax will become a stealth charge onto the consumer in general!There will also become a postcode lottery to small business who may well have to turn down business depending on where the business is coming from eg the independant contractor who can not afford to swallow the extra charges for getting to a job with in the initial periods of charging (before all day comes in ... stealthily!!!). The big boys will be able to and once the small man has gone then we as the consumer looses choice and then the price goes up as the big man has to recoup this extra expenditure!!!!Congestion charging still sound good??? Bring in this transport infrastructure that will compare to Germany and the like and that will solve the congestion!!!!

Rob AdlardJuly 27th 2007.

Nice to hear something from a Lib Dem on the issue of the CC as they have been pretty silent on the issue thus far. You get the impression this was always destined to go ahead as the government is desperate to have a test ground for road pricing.There are so many misconceptions about the CC. Its been shown not to be a green tax as it doesn't stop journeys - in fact it can't do that in order for it to succeed as it needs to generate income.The tax is not neccessary if Manchester City council was really bold and decided to be financially responsible and sell the airport group, as other local authorities have done in order to provide funds for much needed projects, Bradford being one of the most recent. Why does our council need to invest money in airports in places like Southampton!? Its been shown that after a certain period the ariports growth has been held back by local authority control. I don't understand people's reaction to that suggestion, the airport isn't going to dissapear if the council doesn't own it anymore! If the only reason is the socialist argument that its somehow sharing the wealth amongst the people of Manchester (as Sir' Richard Leese's unreformed socialist stance was, and that without it we'd have the most expensive council tax in the country then something is seriously wrong with how much council tax we're paying now! Our C Tax isn't cheap, and the agressive re-banding in the city centre ensures that we pay a great deal. Perhaps if issues were addressed such as our Labour council paying its councillors THREE times what Conservative Trafford council pays theirs then we'd be half way to an answer.

eddyJuly 27th 2007.

ITS JUST ANOTHER STEALTH TAX , yes ok the rich can pay . The public transport networks wont get any better. I dont even drive but know a few hard working low paid workers who it will hit the most. Ain,t it about time we had a revolution!

kgbJuly 27th 2007.

Do you really believe 3 billion is enough to make a dent in the problem? Not the way the state performs these days. Look at the NHS, 93% of the new investment was wasted !

MaryJuly 27th 2007.

I'm really please to see that MC is supporting the congestion charge. Whilst it's not going to be a perfect solution, reducing motorised vehicles in the city centre makes huge sense for a number reasons: less pollution, easier & safer for cyclists and pedestrians, reducing dependency on car use and hopefully getting us all a bit fitter. Yes, I do agree that public transport ought to be cheaper - especially trains. For those of you that live out of town and have poor links into the city centre, when the new tram routes are up maybe you could drive to the nearest tram stop, park and get in that way.

SharonJuly 27th 2007.

Talk about back tracking!! You have really gone back on your word. Yet again, we have to fund something by paying yet another tax - obvious or not. Is it any wonder that hoards of people are moving to other countries when we seem to be paying for the privilege of everything - including the toilet facilities at Piccadilly Train Station. Why is it the decent hard-working people that have to work in and around the City Centre,have to foot the bill. I have just come back from London and the main streets are in absolute chaos, full of traffic jams, so I don't know what the congestion charge was meant to do exactly. It's a load of old cobblers dressed up to leach even more money out of us. And it stinks.

SueJuly 27th 2007.

Hurrah for the congestion charge, and well done to MCC and Mancon for supporting it. Prising people from their cars (and there are plenty of people who live on fantastic bus/tram routes but choose to drive into town) is long overdue. I'm sick of the constant jams and delays. *If* the Council lives up to its promises then all those who don't currently have access to good public transport will get it, Manchester will be the envy of the rest of the UK - and all the objectors out there will have to eat their words... and remember: with this plan, we get the public transport infrastructure first and THEN the congestion charging. It's a no brainer...

Phil BurkeJuly 27th 2007.

Manchester Club and Pub Network welcome congestion charge plans “No threat to city centre's leisure economy” say 550 member-bodyThe Manchester City Centre Club and Pub Network has welcomed the Greater Manchester authorities’ proposals to tackle traffic congestion.The Greater Manchester authorities are considering whether to proceed with a £3bn programme of public transport improvements and road congestion charging.The Network represents over 550 pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants in Manchester's vibrant city centre.It works with the city council and Greater Manchester Police to improve the quality, style and ambience of licensed premises and reassure the public that Manchester city centre is a fun, safe and enjoyable place to spend leisure time.Clerk to the GMPTA Sir Howard Bernstein outlined to Network members how the extra investment could lead to Metrolink expansions, improved trains and more frequent and better quality bus services. And the Network says, licensees, owners and managers were reassured that proposed charges would not affect the city centre leisure economy.“Its fair to say there was initial confusion over the details of the charging,” said Phil Burke, spokesman for the Network. “And people genuinely felt concerned that they wanted to hear firm pledges to put public transport improvements in place before charging began, which we got.” Phil said that “The Manchester scheme is different from London's charge, which hits anyone in the central zone. So Greater Manchester's charge would not target the vast majority of people coming into the city centre.”'And because it would only affect the most congested routes at their busiest times only, there would be no charges coming into the city centre at weekends. On weekdays, people would only pay to come into town in the morning ‘rush hour’, and not at all after 9.30am for the rest of the day and right through the evening and night.”“In fact, the only drinkers to be hit would be those coming into the city centre for a drink at early morning rush hour and it’s best we don't encourage that.”The Network was also reassured to learn that other activities bringing people into the city centre would also escape a charge – these include weekend shopping, evening and weekend football and other sports events and entertainment such as concerts and theatre performances.There would be discounts for vulnerable groups and essential service vehicles would not be charged.The fact that leisure sector workers tend not to travel at peak times is another factor influencing the Network's position. Added Mr Burke “Our members are persuaded that overall, the arguments that the transport proposals will help the economy grow are persuasive. “In fact, there is a case to be made that changing work and travel patterns could mean a much more even spread of leisure activity throughout the working day, helping our sector's businesses issues with ‘down times’ during the day.”

nikiJuly 27th 2007.

maybe people saying NO to the congestion charge is testament to how very little faith we now have in government and council promises. once bitten twice shy the saying goes and to be quite frank - look at what happened with piccadilly gardens and that monstrocity of a building they plonked down without asking/telling us.

KeithJuly 27th 2007.

I remember a certain Mr Prescott announcing in Manchester the ‘bog bang’ enlargement of the Metro system to be up and running in time for the Commonwealth Games. Well they’ve been and gone and still no Metro to Rochdale, Ashton or the airport via Didsbury. Then there was the restructuring of the costs and a ‘little bang’ enlargement was due to take place. My office overlooks the Oldham/Rochdale railway line that was to be converted to the tram, all I can see of that work is the empty and unused interchange at Newton Heath. While I do understand the carrot and stick principal, all we seem to get is the stick, in the form of taxes and higher transport charges. It’s about time our government at all levels, local, national and European delivered a service rather than talking about it while increasing tax revenue by stealth.

TonyJuly 27th 2007.

Clever AGMA.....well done....a proactive and far thinking team. We should be proud of them!

jedsterJuly 27th 2007.

What a turnaround by Mancon! It's hilarious, considering what a battering they seem to enjoy giving the MEN whenever they feel like it. Finally, they've woken up to the reality that I and many others have been talking about for months.

lauraJuly 27th 2007.

i think these congestestion charges are a load of rubbish all it means is the government is going to make MORE money and leave us out of pocket again. Me and my husband have 2 small children so we have to work, you could say don't have children if you can't afford to but the government are telling us to have families! The mortgage rates are going up and now we have these congestion charges which will mean my husband will have to pay £10 a day which is £50 a week on an average month it works out about £200, he has to work. There is no other way of him getting to work. Does this mean he has to move jobs? Does this mean everyone has move jobs just so they don't have to pay these congestion charges. Think of the problems this will cause? I don't believe public transport will improve and if it does its probably going to cost more that the charges! I don't know anymore its no wonder so many people are in debt!

CharlieJuly 27th 2007.

There are some very cleverly worded arguments coming forward in support of the congestion charge scheme. I still don't buy it... Manchester's packed roads have a lot more to do with road closures for construction, closure of the MET, poorly thought out traffic systems and traffic lights than people will admit. I USED to get the bus from Edenfield - it was a great service, cheap, quick, convenient, but the service was pulled completely only last year before being partially reinstated after a barrage of complaints. It's still nowhere near good enough, and when I can make it in 30 minutes in the car, it seems daft to use a poorly supported, insufficient transport system with no thought for commuters who live more than 10 miles out of the city. To have public transport systems that even come close to those in Europe, billions would have to be invested in railways that got ripped up not so long ago in order to get people and more importantly, wagons off the road and reinstate some kind of half decent transport network. I can't see it myself - i think it's more likely we're going to get screwed. Sorry.

AnonymousJuly 27th 2007.

Does this mean that Stockport will get its tram link as muted sometime ago if the charging goes ahead?.Since the introduction of the bus lanes on the A6 the traffic is almost at a halt on most mornings during rush hour, does the congestion charge now mean that we will be also charged for sitting there, Gee thanks!

Rob AdlardJuly 27th 2007.

Also, have you taken a look at the actual survey done for the proposal. Remember how the MEN released the figures showing support for the CC? A key factor for the charge being introduced is that it has public acceptance. High acceptance figures were published, but not the questions asked. Check out the responses AND the questions“In July, the Councils of Greater Manchester can submit a bid to the Government for the overalltransport package we have been talking about. This is a competition and, if successful, therewould be further consultation with the public and businesses before the schemes are introduced.” the response to this was a healthy 60%, however the text says 'agrees to some extent' so thats not a clear yes. When the question mentions the CC support drops to 41%. 79% thought something neeed to be done about transport, 63% didn't think there was enough investmnet......guys, these figures aren't supporting a charge as was reported, they just agreeing with common sense issues that we need to do something, however when asked if that 'something' was congestion charging the acceptance is low....

Matthew SutcliffeJuly 27th 2007.

In typical fashion the debate has been hijacked - it's not about a congestion charge, it's about massive improvement to our public transport system. Yes, the congestion charge is a prerequisite that unlocks the huge investment - £3 billion in total - but it is only one part of a much bigger, bolder plan that will give Manchester the kind of public transport we look enviously upon in other top European cities.And as Jonathon Schofield rightly points out in his piece, we're deluding ourselves if we think road pricing is not going to happen in the future just because we reject a congestion charge now. The government has clearly signalled that its on the way. We should be bold, use the congestion to our advantage and get behind the biggest investment in public transport outside London.

John CJuly 27th 2007.

Oh, right, here we go. When Labour got in, I thought that one of the things that they would have they would have reversed partially, if not wholly, would have been the then recently set-up train operating companies. Remember 1994 or '95, when Labour couldn't mount a proper challenge to the votes that ushered in the privatised rail system that we have now? The Tories were fetching terminally-ill MPs in wheel-chairs and beds to vote "for", so fearful were they that they would lose: they only had a working majority of about 18 seats - maybe less - at the time. Labour cynically held back enough so that the Tories would win, and so they (Labour) wouldn't have to worry about rail transport when they got in. There were mumblings that they would do something about it but nothing happened. This is a government who have found the power to invade several countries but not the will to wrest power from companies who have more interest in shareholders, directors earnings and share-price than mere passeng...er...customers.It's blindingly obvious: public transport should be a service that is (mostly) subsidised by the government (i.e. you 'n' me!!) and not by for-profit train companies. Have you seen the prices these days? How can it be that it's cheaper to fly from most major mainland cities to London (at the very least) than it is to travel by train - unless you've conveniently booked 2 weeks ahead, using a computer. The main idea LOOKS good - undeniably so - but will it work? I'm not holding my breath. The local govt raises money to help produce an integrated transport initiative, combining private cars, buses and trains, and all I can hear is a bunch of bus and train companies scheming as to how they can get their hands on the loot, either by subsidy, higher fares or any other means. How the hell is local govt going to make their regional transport theory work when they have to work with powerful and nationally-subsidised transport companies? Don't forget that the subsidy paid out to train and rail companies nowadays is far greater, by any measure, than it was back in bad old BR days. At least then, we had people who knew how railways worked.

PatJuly 27th 2007.

The congestion charge debate has been very intersting I have particularly loved the suggestion about selling off M'cr Airport from PEEL Holdings. Airport dividends have contrbuted enormously to the well being of G.M'Cr over the years. Should a decision to sell off M'cr Airport ever be taken my guess would be that PEEL would be at the front of the prospective purchasers.

IanJuly 27th 2007.

You are idiots. Why would you back paying yet more taxes? There is already enough money collected through fuel tax, VAT and road tax to pay for the necessary investment. You lot need to shake your head and wake up, unless of course you enjoy giving your hard earned(?) money away for someone else to spend. ps what about low income people who can't afford £25 week out of net income?

PeterJuly 27th 2007.

My partner works near the city stadium whilst we live in a village north of Manchester. He starts work normally between 7am and 8am, but the first bus out of the village is at 7am. It is a 2-hour journey by public transport involving a bus to Bury, tram to Manchester and then bus and a walk to work. Apart from it costing a fortune on public transport, he can be in work in 30 minutes by car. I for my sins am currently working in Crewe, and leave at 6am to try to avoid the tailbacks caused solely by the badly designed M60/M62/M602 junction at the Eccles interchange where traffic coming on at Worsley to go over Barton Bridge has to cut across traffic trying to leave the M60 to get onto the M62/M602, causing stationary traffic back beyond Birch services. We wouldn't need road pricing if this one junction was sorted out. The traffic only ever flows when the Worsley junction is closed!

I'm not stupid!July 27th 2007.

Has anybody actually done the sums to see what the 1.8bn loan is going to cost council tax payers when / if this all goes tits up? Looks like the government will have a noose around the balls of our city for a long time to come!

VictorJuly 27th 2007.

I find Confidential's support of Congestion Charging a sad betrayal of your many readers who have respected the challenging and, when appropriate, anti authoritarian stance you have taken on so many issues in the past. I am left bemused as to what has caused this incredibly naiive 'Road to Damascus' belief that we can believe anything that this government say, whether under their previous Harry Potter like leader or the new Draco Malfoy version and his Slytherin cabinet colleagues. I can't believe that you are being so naiive as to believe that the promised billions will a) ever arrive or b)be used efficiently for the purpose for which they are claimed to be intended. The real beneficieries will undoubtedly be the hoards of consultants and transport experts already salivating at the prospect of endless scoping studies, modelling exercises and junkets to far flung places accompanied by swarms of local politicians, all doubtless desparate to compare the infrastructure requirements of our regional capital to the 'success stories' in places like Miami, Tobago and the Maldives! (Honest guv - it was a working trip and the weather was brutal - had to double my liquid intake.....) This naiive about-face comes in the wake of a much flawed consultation smokescreen (nobody ever consulted anyone I know) and within the context of one of the present most inefficient, uncoordinated and expensive local transport systems in Europe - why start believing them now when their past record and current performance are so lamentably inadequate. Two things leap out of the arguments of the pro lobby, the first being the playing of the 'green' card - be reassured I really do think that you're all very very green! Secondly, the historically inaccurate references to the Canal - frankly I would find your obsessive belief in the sanctity of Congestion Charging more accurately described if you dropped the 'C'. Totally disillusioned with you......

AnonymousJuly 27th 2007.

IT LOOKS LIKE A LOT OF PEOPLE IN MANCHESTER NEED TO SEE THE PLANS FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT UPGRADES - IN BLACK AND WHITE. How about we start paying congestions charging the very moment every single promise on public transport is met... and not a moment before. I'll vote yes to that!!

Dave le freakJuly 27th 2007.

This all seems fishy. 2 years ago Richard Leese said there would be huge adverse economic effects if Manchester had a C-charge. Howard Berstein took time out from choking on his fat cigar and 1/2 hourly visits to the loo for what appeared to be a stuffy/ sctratchy nose to tell Ken Livingstone that it would be over his dead body that Manchester has a C - charge so what has changed? IT could be that a few of these chaps have re-read economic theory to change their minds or simply getting a back-hander from the companies set to benefit from the scheme.This is all very well, We've estimated teh increased wage bill per person to be £94,000 p.a. to our business being between £1900 and £2300 per employee. We can't pass this cost on so it's the bottom line that suffers. We will have a further review but our lease expires in 16 months so we'll more than likely relocate.We may be small employers but there are thousands like up in ht ecity and if we're considering moving, so must others. Leese etc will get their uncongested city but with fewer people buying fewer items leading to fewer shops leading to fewer jobs leading to economic downturn leading to fewer jobs la la la....These juped up councilors are at best incompentant, at worst they may well be corupt.

veggieJuly 27th 2007.

Hmmm, got an advertising deal with the council have you Man Con?

AnonymousJuly 27th 2007.

I live in the countryside - at the moment i drive in and my only local service is a bus - but I have a car so i could drive to a train station ad catch a train easily enough - and probably will if there is a charge - it will save me a fortune on getting taxis home when I am pissed! Does anyone know what 'peak time' means. good decision lets get on with it

N MorganJuly 27th 2007.

Can anyone give me an example of a government scheme that has either come in on time or on budget?Every publicly funded scheme ends up over budget with the cost to the tax payer being inflated,so expect higher council taxes and instead of £5 per car as suggested expect it to be far more than that.As for improved public transport-don't make me laugh.The government has promised a multimillion package to buy more rolling stock and improve the railways which the taxpayer is paying for - but out of interest who is going to benefit from the extra passengers- private companies.At the end of the day Britains 'contribution' to global warming is 2% but we are the only country screwing the public in inflated taxes under the guise of conservation.

Black BoxJuly 27th 2007.

Absolute Poppycock!!Not only does it cost a small fortune to park in the city centre, and there are less and less parking bays to park in. On top of that the congestion charge!! Public transport is expensive and about to increase. The retail and businesses will end up suffering!!

Rob AdlardJuly 27th 2007.

How do other local authorities and city councils manage to keep council tax at a reasonable level without owning airports? As I said before, we're getting very poor value for money if its only the airport dividend that prevents massive hikes in council tax, is that what you're saying is the case? I suppose most people realise that Lib Dem proposals usually mean even more tax, although New Labour may have stolen your mantle with that in recent years. I didn't realise Cllr Ramsbottom was a supporter of the Congestion Charge?

sharonJuly 27th 2007.

Manchester Confidential - you still haven't answered the many questions put to you in a lot of these previous messages, above mine. Rich people will still drive to Town in their enviromentally friendly expensive cars and the rest of us poor minions will suffer and struggle not to go under. What with increased interest rates on our mortgage as well, it's a wonder we don't crack under the strain. And for the Andy Tom who was talking about demographics, the population is on the increase because people from europe are coming over in droves.

vauxyJuly 27th 2007.

The only form of transport for my cousin to get to work is a bus but due to budget cuts this has been reduced to a very poor one bus in the morning (too late) a couple throughout the day and one bus in the evening (ok, just!)If the Congestion Charge is implemented are these type of services going to be reinstated or are slightly more rurual home owners going to be punished anyway?

AnonymousJuly 27th 2007.

I agree with congestion charging in principle. I hate driving and love being able to read a book or listen to music whilst letting somebody else worry about the traffic. It makes a lot of sense... but surely we are putting the cart before the horse.If we are to be persuaded to give up using our cars then there have to be clean, convenient alternatives. At present there are some fortunate enough to be close to the Metrolink although this is expensive and only a proportion of those travelling on them are ever in possession of a ticket... thus increasing the cost to those who have. In addition, where are all the ‘park and ride’ cars to be left. Currently there are very limited places to park cars around the Metrolink stations so few in fact that people abandon their cars across driveways and block residential roads near to stations.As for city centre buses, these are often frightening places to be. There are no ticket collectors to give passengers a sense of security. The bus drivers themselves seem to be locked securely in their cabin in order to prevent them having to actually deal with the general public. Old people get catapulted down the bus as the drivers do not wait for them to find a seat… if there are any seats to be found.If we want to be really brave, how about barring the traffic from the city centre altogether or banning heavy good vehicles during peak times?? These suggestions would make the city centre a more pleasant place too but only if the alternatives have been provided in advance… otherwise you are simply extracting yet more money from people working in the city who may not be able to afford it.Has anyone considered that we may simply see companies changing their working hours to avoid having to pay their staff extra to cover the congestion charge… or alternatively moving their premises out of the city centre??If there is a plan that covers all of these issues and a cheap (i.e. comparable with running a car, not £4.50 return per day), convenient alternative way of getting into the city centre for everyone… then bring it on!!

Andy TomJuly 27th 2007.

Just read Cllr Mark Ramsbottom's comments I would pay for the public transport improvements out of the inflated petrol duty (the highest in the world) that every motorist has paid in this country for many, many decades. (While every non motorist has paid for indirectly through increased distribution costs). The reality of congestion charging is that with the next generation of greener cars around the corner, the government will no longer be able to justify the increased petrol duty we all suffer. Congestion charging is therefore the latest cash cow for the government to pursue. Meanwhile outside of rush hours, empty busses exempt from emmision regulations, will continue to pollute Picadilly gardens.In any case, what is the justification for congestion continuing to increase, with an ageing population and birthrates declining, will the population not be decreasing? How can less people drive more cars? Want to cut congestion and pollution? -Target unlicensed and untaxed vehicles, set and enforce emission targets, and bring back school busses... Want to bring in loads more money? - bring in congestion charging to fleece people for continuing to make essential journeys.

pah!July 27th 2007.

When was the last time Jonathan Schofield took a bus?!

MartinJuly 27th 2007.

My! News broken today and too much to take in here already...... I think the biggest issue is the COST and convenience of public transport.Fares HAVE to be low, park and ride schemes need to be everywhere (no charge to park)and the various forms of transport have to be integrated, otherwise it just won't work.An example: as a senior citizen I can buy a 'Wayfarer' day ticket and come in from Macclesfield to Manchester by train and use trams and buses there, all for just £4.40, no more expensive than taking the car in, and a good deal more pleasant. If I had to pay the full rate for this ticket, at £8.80 I would not even consider it, since fuel and parking would cost me less. Once in Manchester, the trams are frequent, so generally connect well with incoming trains, but the buses are a total mess with over 40 bus companies, how do I find out which one will connect with my train? In Germany, where we have holidayed frequently, the transport systems are efficient, cheap, intergrated, but largely State-run and SUBSIDISED up to the hilt by national and regional governments this is why they work so well!

LeonJuly 27th 2007.

I think the council should also offer grants to businesses to install shower and changing facilities in the office. I used to cycle 11 miles to work across the city, it was only 10 minutes slower than going by car and about 20 minutes quicker than using public transport, didn't cost me a penny and I felt great!

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