Manchester plans 5-pound congestion charge

LONDON (Reuters) - Motorists in Manchester will have to pay a five-pound congestion charge to travel in and out of the centre during rush-hour, if plans revealed on Friday go ahead.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) wants to introduce the charge as part of an overall three billion pound transport package that will include improved tram, rail and bus services.

The leaders of Greater Manchester’s 10 councils, which say the improvements are vital for their economic progress, will be following London, if the plan gets the go-ahead. It has to receive broad public approval and funds need to be obtained from the government first.

Only the most congested routes will be targeted at the busiest times of the day and week, the AGMA said.

Motorists will have to pay two pounds to travel into the centre, crossing the M60 outer ring, during the peak morning period, between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Monday to Friday, and one pound to travel out during the evening peak time, between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

To drive through the Intermediate Ring will cost one pound either way during the peak hours.

There will be no charge at weekends, nor on weekdays before 7 a.m., between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., after 6:30 p.m. and through the evening.

“The emerging scheme is different from London’s all-day ‘blunt’ charging methods, where any travel within the boundary can result in a charge,” the AGMA said.

Payment will be through a tag and beacon electronic tolling system, and discounts will be available for vulnerable groups.

Automatic number plate recognition cameras positioned around Manchester would aim to catch fare dodgers.

AGMA leader Lord Peter Smith said: “If we fail to address road congestion, Greater Manchester could miss out on 30,000 jobs over the next 15 years.

“Doing nothing is not an option.”

Councillor Roger Jones said any charging scheme should not be introduced on roads until those affected have a “reliable, integrated public transport system” able to provide a real alternative to using cars.

A consultation paper will go out, and the system could be in place by late 2012.