National road pricing promotes need for a c-charge yes vote, say campaigners

Date published: 06 November 2008

Hundreds of drivers are being recruited across four locations in the country to take part in government-funded road pricing trials that could be rolled out nationally if the scheme is successful.

The trials, which will start early next year, could end in charges of up to £1.30 a mile on the country's most congested roads.

Campaigners for a 'yes' vote in next month's Transport Innovation Fund referendum for Greater Manchester believe that the news will prompt Rochdale's voters to vote yes to get transport improvements part-funded by a city centre congestion charge.

Lis Phelan, chairman of the Yes Campaign, says that the confirmation of Government trials into a national road pricing scheme has made a successful Greater Manchester TIF bid 'absolutely crucial’.

Ms Phelan said: “If a national road pricing scheme is introduced it will not come with a £3 billion boost to Greater Manchester’s trams, trains and buses. Nor will it be designed for the specific needs of our region.

“A ‘No’ vote means the money will go elsewhere and congestion charging is likely to be introduced in the future without any of the £3bn of improvements available now.”

Manchester MP Graham Stringer, who is backing the Greater Manchester Momentum Group in their campaign against the TIF bid, said that the proposed Manchester congestion charge had nothing to do with national road pricing.

"It is absolutely clear that what would happen in Greater Manchester is not a trial for any national road pricing scheme. Using 100 square miles of an urban area is not of any use as a pre-cursor for national road pricing.

"The Manchester scheme is designed to take £9billion off motorists. It is not designed to take away congestion; it is designed to make money."

At a Department for Transport conference held this week, Transport Minister Paul Clark announced that national road pricing trials would begin in early 2009.

Mr Clark said: “If we sit back and do nothing you can be sure that economic growth will lead to gridlock.”

Meanwhile the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities have released a statement following comments made in Parliament by Prime Minister Gordon Brown that clarified that without congestion charging, Greater Manchester would not get any Government funding for transport improvements.

Lord Peter Smith, Leader of AGMA, said: "Opponents of TIF have mislead the public that the government funding is in place, but the Secretary of State has made it clear that without road pricing there is no TIF bid and Gordon Brown has said exactly the same thing.

“The Prime Minister made it perfectly clear in his statement regarding Greater Manchester’s Transport Innovation Fund bid that the Government are prepared in principle to support our proposals and contribute £1.5bn. But this is dependant ‘on the broad scope and nature of the package remaining the same’.

“It must be made absolutely clear that without congestion charging there is no bid and no money will be forthcoming from the Government.

“It would simply be unworkable to continue resubmitting bids and holding separate referendum every time.

“A yes vote means saying yes to an investment into public transport of up to £3bn and the introduction of a weekday, peak-time only congestion charge , a no vote means no investment in public transport and no congestion charge, there is no central ground on this issue.”

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