United City, the lobby group formed by Greater Manchester businesses to throw their weight behind the Government's £3bn investment into the region's public transport, has issued the public authorities with a number of demands.
Launched just 10 days ago, and with a growing membership of 50, the group said its members had some important concerns, which had led to it issuing the list of requests, including:
A cap of only one charge for business vehicles passing through a charging ring more than once during the charging periods to help businesses which have to make peak-time deliveries across the M60 and inner charging rings;
Businesses located at Trafford Park to be made exempt from any congestion charge until the Metrolink line is completed;
Motorcycles to be exempt from any charges;
Any excess income from congestion charging to be ring-fenced wholly for spending on public transport in Greater Manchester;
The new demands are in addition to an initial set of conditions already set out by United City, which state that:
- The great majority of the public transport improvements outlined within the TIF proposals must be in place before a congestion charge is introduced;
- The congestion charge must only be active when congestion causes the economy the greatest cost (during the early morning and evening rush hours);
- The income from congestion charging is ring-fenced to service only repayments for the capital loan from central government, for investment in and support of public transport in Greater Manchester;
- An independent individual or body must be in place to oversee the public transport investment and the implementation of the congestion charge.
United City's Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Bruntwood, explains: "It is conceivable that after the 30 year period for repaying the £1.2bn of government loan, it will have raised surplus income. United City is calling on the authorities to guarantee that any such surplus will be invested in Greater Manchester's public transport network.
"We have been hugely pleased at our member numbers so far, and these demands reflect their feedback to us. We understand the needs of companies which make repeat journeys across the charging rings. However, we are not calling for total exemptions, as these are precisely the companies which will benefit from reduced congestion."
The group's members already include high street chain Timpson, Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy's Latium Group and property companies Bruntwood, Ask Developments, Property Alliance and Urban Splash. The alliance includes partnership bodies such as CityCo, Manchester's city centre management company, Piccadilly Partnership and the new City South Partnership, which is responsible for the development of the university district.