Bernstein launches weekly TIF bid email bulletins

Date published: 28 July 2008

Sir Howard Bernstein, the Clerk to Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA) has launched the first of what will be a series of weekly email bulletins for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of the current public consultation on the Greater Manchester Future Transport proposals under the Government’s Transport Innovation Fund (TIF).

The proposed Future Transport package represents one of the biggest decisions that residents and businesses in Greater Manchester will face for a generation. The consultation runs until 10 October nd covers the plans for up to £3 billion of new transport investment, supported in part by a limited, peak time congestion charge from 2013.

In his first email, Mr Bernstein says: "The Future Transport package of measures is set to revolutionise public transport across Greater Manchester and we believe it will bring benefits to every part of the conurbation and the wider region. The package will provide a range of new rapid bus services, bus priority measures, feeder services and a modern fleet of vehicles that will transform travel between Manchester city centre and the rest of Greater Manchester, as well as offering new services within and between other major town centres across the county. Improved rail stations, rolling stock and park and ride facilities will upgrade our existing heavy rail infrastructure. And major new extensions to the successful Metrolink Tram system will virtually treble the scale of the network, and boost passenger numbers to over 70 million a year.

"Good transport is vital to business, but I fully understand that this consultation takes place against the background of a challenging business environment. Fuel prices, the credit crunch and ongoing economic uncertainty are a real concern for many business leaders. That is why it is especially important to obtain your feedback on the most appropriate way to move forward with these transport proposals.

"Our discussions with SMEs and other businesses as we drew up the Future Transport plans made clear how congestion already has a negative impact on many businesses. 72% of the companies we surveyed before putting in a bid to Government thought that congestion would have a growing impact on the Greater Manchester economy.

"Our concern is that unless we take action now both to tackle congestion on our roads and to provide a world class public transport system for Greater Manchester, then our future economic growth will be threatened. We cannot do one without the other, which is why the proposals form a single package. Indeed, we believe that the Future Transport proposals will save business time, reduce business costs overall and give Greater Manchester a competitive advantage for attracting investment, the best people and more visitors.

"The Future Transport proposals would bring 50 years’ worth of transport investment to our communities and business areas, and the bulk of the improvements would be made before congestion charging is introduced in 2013.

"In the run up to the current consultation it became clear that there was some confusion about the proposed investment package, and in particular the congestion charge element. I appreciate that in order to make an appropriate business assessment, you require the full facts of how the scheme will operate.

"Firstly, there has been a significant degree of misinformation about the level of the charge. Estimates of a cost per employee, customer and supplier of over £2,000 a year have been quoted in some quarters. In fact, our calculations indicate that 80% of peak-time Greater Manchester commuters will pay nothing when the charge is introduced. Those that do pay will face a charge of £1 for crossing the inner charging ring on an inbound journey, exclusively during the charging window of 07.00 and 09.30, Monday to Friday, and £2 for crossing the outer charging ring on an inbound journey, during the same period. In the evening, the charge will be £1 for crossing each of the rings on an outbound journey, again affecting only those who travel during the charging window of 16.00-18.30.

"For the small number of drivers and delivery vehicles making multiple trips across the charging rings at peak times, we propose that the daily charge should be capped at £10 (2007 prices) and we are interested to hear business views on this. All the subsequent charging prices will be subject to independent scrutiny by independent transport regulator.

Secondly, there appears to be a misunderstanding about the charging mechanism itself. As I have detailed above, the charge will only apply during the ‘window’ of 07.00 – 09.30 and 16.00 -18.30 during weekdays. Even then, it will only apply to those engaged in peak inbound morning and outbound evening travel who cross a charging point. There will be no charge for those who travel at other times, no charge for people travelling ‘against’ the peak-time traffic flow, no charge for those travelling exclusively within the congestion charge rings and no charge for weekend or bank holiday travel. We are also proposing a range of discounts and exemptions and we would like to hear the views of business on these.

"Thirdly, there is an impression that rejection of the congestion charge element of the Future Transport package would represent a ‘cost free’ option for Greater Manchester. That is not the case. The deal to secure up to £3 billion of new direct investment and borrowing from Government is predicated on our ability to obtain a degree of matched funding from congestion charging revenues. Without that element the project will not obtain final Ministerial approval.

"Moreover, in an uncertain fiscal and political environment it is questionable whether investment of that magnitude will be made available to Greater Manchester again in the short to medium term if we are unable to seize the current funding opportunity. If the Greater Manchester proposals do not go ahead, the Government grant may go instead to a rival city such as Birmingham, Liverpool or Leeds.

"You will also be aware of the threat increased congestion, and the limitations of our existing transport infrastructure, pose to Greater Manchester’s position as the North West Region’s premier business hub. Whilst the impact of rising fuel prices may artificially suppress their impact over the short term, the long term trends are clear. On current calculations, by 2013, congestion will be costing Greater Manchester businesses over £800 million a year. In a tough economic environment that is a burden that is likely to prove unsustainable.

"I am aware that these issues are complex, and that the implications of these proposals will differ from business to business. I would therefore like to provide you with the opportunity to ask my team and me questions about the Future Transport proposals and how they relate to your particular company. We will aim to respond to your enquiries within 5 working days of receiving them. To benefit from this service, please email your questions to me at:

"You will also be able to obtain more information on the Future Transport proposals from the Consultation Brochure and Response Form that have already been posted to you, and from the Business Newsletter that was sent to you in June and our website:

"I believe the Future Transport proposals are of fundamental importance to the ongoing economic prosperity of Greater Manchester, and that they therefore deserve serious consideration and debate. I very much hope you will explore precisely how the proposed package will affect your staff, your suppliers, your customers and yourself and then give us your views."

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