The chairman of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority has denied claims by the Government's Transport Select Committee that the controversial bid for Transport Innovation Fund money is not innovative but simply a "road pricing trial on behalf of Government."
A report by the Transport Select Committee to Government said the current TIF arrangements risk "blackmailing local authorities to conduct road pricing trials on behalf of Government in advance of a possible national scheme."
The committee also cited evidence given by Merseytravel, the passenger transport authority for Merseyside, that claimed: "There is little innovation involved – it is funding in return for [road-user charging] pilots/schemes."
The GMPTA's £3bn TIF bid, submitted on July 31 following a vote in favour by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, proposes introduction of a road congestion charge after a series of public transport improvements.
Cllr Roger Jones, a Labour councillor in Salford, said: "I must admit I was shocked and stunned by those comments. There are no local authorities outside London who are properly talking about congestion.
"Innovation comes not in the introduction of road charging but in that it would be the last thing we would do following massive infrastructure improvements. These include more trams, buses, park and ride schemes – huge improvements across the public network."
The select committee's report recommends that the TIF's requirement for bids to include road charging be dropped. It says alternative measures such as workplace travel plans, cycle facilities and car clubs could play an equally important role in tackling congestion.
"The fund should be open to all authorities, including those for whom road pricing does not represent the best solution to their congestion problems," the report said.
The road pricing schedule for Greater Manchester would apply from Monday to Friday at peak time only:
- Inbound Morning Peak (7.00am-9.30am): £2 to cross at or near the M60 Outer Ring, £1 to cross Intermediate Ring (the detailed route is yet to be determined).
- Outbound Evening Peak (4.00pm-6.30pm): £1 to cross Intermediate Ring, £1 to cross Outer Ring.
A day return trip to the centre of the region covered and back, with both inbound and outbound journeys made at peak times, would cost £5. Charges would not apply at weekends or public holidays, and the road system would also be free during the middle of the day, and free in peak times when travelling against the main flow of the traffic.
The Transport Select Committee is dominated by North West MPs with four from six on the panel representing a constituency in the region. Chaired by Gwyneth Dunwoody, Labour member for Crewe and Nantwich, fellow Labour party members Louise Ellman, Liverpool Riverside MP, and former Manchester City Council leader, Graham Stringer, Manchester Blackley MP, are also on the panel. From the Liberal Democrats, John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington, is the fourth of the North West contingent.
A decision on the TIF bid is expected by the end of the year at the earliest.