Rochdale says 'No' to congestion charging

Date published: 02 October 2008

People in Rochdale have spoken out over the proposed congestion charge, with the majority of those interviewed by Rochdale Online saying that they are against it.

Rochdale Online reporter Matthew Simms took to the town centre earlier today (Thursday 2 October) and asked more than 100 people if they were either for or against the charge. A resounding 77% said they were against, while 23% were in favour.

The congestion charge is part of a bid for money from the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), which would see nearly £3billion to improve public transport around the region.

The majority of the money would be spent on extending the Metrolink, and would include a line through Oldham and into Rochdale town centre.

There would also be improvements to 30 train stations and to train and bus services across Greater Manchester.

Voters will decide before the end of the year whether the region should accept the money from the TIF in exchange for the peak time congestion charge. A region-wide referendum will be held next month.

The TIF money and subsequent congestion charge will only be introduced if a majority of voters in at least seven out of the Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs support the congestion charge.

The Lib Dem council in Rochdale may have given their backing to the scheme, but people in Rochdale have been saying no to the plans, one of them was George Burrows, 54, of Norden.

“I think it’s absolutely rubbish,” he said. “I pay road tax, excessive amounts of fuel tax, I pay tax on my wage and now they want me to pay another tax.”

Kath Critcheley will also be voting no. The 55-year-old from Heywood works as a carer and her office is in Rochdale.

“I travel all around the area to deal with different people so I would have to pay the congestion charge most days,” she said.

“I am opposed and it’s bad for the council as they will probably have to put my wage up to compensate for it.”

But Usman Anjun, 25, of Sudden is one person who will be voting yes. He has an office and owns property in Manchester city centre, and he believes the TIF is a ‘good thing’, but not because of the transport improvements.

“It may force people who commute into the city centre to think about moving into the city and that’s what Manchester and the region needs,” he said.

Neil Hulton, 54, from Oldham, who works in Rochdale, is also in favour of the congestion charge as long as the money from the Transport Initiative Fund is used to good effect. 

“I don’t mind it, but there has got to be significant improvement in the public transport and less congestion around Manchester,” he said

However Susan Johnson, 39, who is from Heywood but works in Rochdale town centre, is firmly against the plans.

“You can’t get anywhere without a car in Heywood and the congestion zone starts two minutes from my house,” she said.

“I was talking to my friends and if they want to take their sons to Middleton Cricket Club at 5pm they will have to pay the congestion charge as they cross junction 19 of the M60, even though it is only a two minute drive for them.”

Commenting on the Rochdale Online poll, Rochdale Council Leader Alan Taylor said that there is much work still to do to convince people of the benefits that he believes the TIF money will bring. 

He said: "I am not overly surprised with these results as people naturally don’t want to pay any extra money. The fact is that 90% of the people of this Borough will not have to pay the charge. When asked the question about whether they were willing to accept peak-only Congestion Charging in return for massive transport investment – 62% of Rochdale people supported it and only 39% were against. We will be stepping up our campaign over the next few weeks as this investment is critical for our Borough.”

The congestion charge is due to be introduced in 2013 and could see motorists heading into Manchester city centre and out again during the weekday rush hours pay up to £5 a day.

Drivers entering the area bordered by the M60 will be charged £2.00 in the morning peak, with a further £1.00 for those entering the city centre itself. In the evening, a further £1.00 will be charged on exit of each cordon.

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