Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has announced that Greater Manchester is to receive ”2.8bn ($5.5bn) in provisional funding for major public transport improvements and confirmed that plans for road congestion charges will start by 2013, after approval from the Government”s Transport Innovation Fund (TIF).
The huge investment will contribute to improve bus services across Manchester, extend the existing Metrolink tram by 22 miles (35.4 km), introduce direct buses running from the north to the south of the city and add 120 extra yellow school buses.
Enhancements will also be made to rail services, including more carriages and seats, the upgrade of 41 stations and the doubling of park and ride provision on Metrolink networks.
”The decision to award Programme Entry to Greater Manchester”s proposals means that the Government is prepared, in principle, to invest ”1.5bn in support of the package of measures,” said Kelly.
”The remaining investment will be funded by Greater Manchester. The Manchester authorities will now work towards ”Conditional” and ultimately ”Full” approval for their plans.”
There has been speculation that any plans for Manchester to implement a congestion charge could cost motorists up to ”1,200 a year, at a time when fuel prices are rising. However, Kelly added: ”Congestion charging would deliver far greater benefits to the city”s economic growth and quality of life than either investment or a charging scheme alone.”
Manchester Councils will now conduct a full public consultation and depending on the outcome, the Department for Transport believes an application for Conditional approval is expected in the autumn. If successful, any charge could operate at peak times, when congestion is at its worst.
Kelly added: ”I applaud the ambition and vision of Greater Manchester”s councils, their proposals will sustain the region”s growth, bring benefits to all those who live in the area and enable Greater Manchester to compete with the best cities across the world.”