TRANSPORT SECRETARY Alistair Darling last week strongly hinted that Manchester could win funding for its Metrolink extension by adopting a congestion charging scheme.
Darling told the Commons Transport select committee that his department wanted a 'large conurbation' other than London to try out a large-scale charging scheme.
He suggested that the scheme was a contender for funding from the Department for Transport's new Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) which is likely to favour authorities which introduce congestion charging.
'Manchester, which has a quite highly developed public transport scheme, has an excellent opportunity to come forward. If that scheme includes road pricing that is up to them.
'We do want a large conurbation. But we have had more interest than expected, ' he added.
Plans to extend Manchester's Metrolink are currently on hold after Darling objected to escalating costs (NCE 27 July 2004).
But Darling has also told the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) that the £520M budget is still available, and that could be supplemented by funding from the TIF.
GMPTE is to submit a report detailing its plans to the Department for Transport next month.