Azara Blog: Government gives ok to Manchester to introduce so-called congestion charge

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Date published: 2008/06/09

The BBC says:

The government has approved a peak-time congestion charging scheme for drivers entering and leaving Manchester.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly outlined its provisional support for a two-ring scheme, charging up to £5 from 2013.

She told MPs it would be combined with £2.8bn of investment to create a "world-class public transport system".

The Tories accused her of "bullying" the people of Manchester into accepting the scheme, which will need final approval from councillors in the city.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers called for a referendum on the plans.

A public consultation will be held on the plans. They must gain the support of two-thirds of councillors in Greater Manchester in order to proceed further.
Ms Kelly told the Commons that the government had provisionally made available £1.5bn to support the scheme.

The rest of the £2.8bn will come from the city authorities themselves.
The leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese, earlier told the BBC that fewer than 20% of motorists in Greater Manchester would have to pay the charge.

And he said the scheme would be of great benefit to more than 30% of households who relied entirely on public transport and currently struggled to get to work.

Of all the cities proposing to introduce a so-called congestion charge (which as usual, is not a congestion charge but an access charge), the one for Manchester by far and away makes the most sense. But as usual, the devil is in the detail. The BBC article abjectly fails to mention how much this scheme will allegedly cost to implement, nor what the alleged annual revenue raised and the alleged annual operating cost and the alleged annual saving from reduced congestion will be, which are all crucial numbers to determining how worthy the scheme is for the country. (Manchester is getting lots of free money thrown at it, so it's hard to believe Manchester as a whole will be worse off.)

Villiers should not be claiming that the government is "bullying" the people of Manchester. Rather the government is bribing them, and not with the headline figure of £2.8 billion but with the figured buried in the article of roughtly half that, £1.5 billion (assuming that this is not a typical New Labour exaggeration). Even this smaller figure is a fairly astonishing number, and of course it is forcibly being handed over by the rest of the UK. Scaling up to the size of the UK this would be on the order of 40 or 50 billion pounds. If this investment is allegedly so needed (and not just for Manchester) then why is it just not being done without all this so-called congestion charging be added in as a side issue? It's the same problem with the bogus reason why the country allegedly had to pour billions of pounds down the drain to sponsor the 2012 Olympics, namely that the regeneration of the east side of London could not possibly occur (for some unknown reason) without the Olympics to push it along. This is extremely poor governance.

And Leese is pretty much admitting that he is relying on the fact that the scheme is going to screw a small(ish) minority, allegedly for the benefit of a larger minority (and indeed, perhaps for the benefit of the majority if he could be bothered to be concerned about people besides those who rely entirely on public transport). Heaven forbid the novel concept that people who use public transport should actually pay for the service they are getting. Evidently only car drivers should be liable (five times over) for that distinction.

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