Green light for Manchester congestion charge

The controversial congestion charge proposals for Greater Manchester have been backed by the government.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly told MPs the government approved of the plans in principle, meaning drivers will need to pay £5 to enter the city centre at peak times.

She said Manchester was a “world class city [that deserved] a world class transport system”.

Motorists would now have “real choice” about their journeys, she added.

Manchester is now expected to become the first city to follow London’s example in introducing a congestion charge, which will also be supplemented by millions of pounds of government support for public transport improvements.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers attacked Ms Kelly’s statement in the Commons, which has been given a favourable reaction by lobbying groups.

Friends of the Earth welcomed the move to cut congestion and tackle climate change but called for an improvement in public transport and cycling facilities.

“We must wean ourselves of our addiction to oil. Congestion charging can play a significant role in developing a clean, safe and prosperous future,” said Friends of the Earth transport campaigner Tony Bosworth.

The RAC Foundation meanwhile called for complete transparency over road-pricing revenues and demanded the scheme be simple enough for people to understand what they would pay.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAF Foundation, explained: “This package offers a better future for local people and the Manchester economy than the do-nothing alternative.

“Government now needs to work out a coherent long-term roads strategy, involving progress towards a combination of good-value investment in extra road capacity and national road pricing to replace fuel duty.”