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Manchester councils back congestion charge referendum

Manchester's bid to introduce a congestion charge and plough £2.8bn into local transport gained a boost today when its ten councils agreed that a planned referendum should go ahead.

Local government leaders today voted to accept a draft question and ballot pack that will put Greater Manchester's application for £1.5bn from the Government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) to the public vote on December 11.

If successful, the TIF cash will be added to congestion charge revenues to fund £2.8bn of local transport improvements, including significant extensions to the Metrolink tram network.

The question contains a preamble mentioning both the peak-hour only, weekday charge and the transport investment, but fails to mention the phrase "congestion charge".

It then asks people whether they support the proposals or not.

The Manchester Evening News reports that a meeting of local councillors today the leaders of Stockport and Trafford councils - who oppose the package - proposed that the phrase "congestion charge" be included in the question.

But both were voted down by the other council leaders.

A final vote on whether to accept the question as it stood was won seven to three - with Bury joining Stockport and Trafford in the vote against it.

Ballot papers for the all-postal referendum will now be sent out at the end of November, with the deadline for replies set at December 1.

If approved, Manchester's TIF bid will deliver new Metrolink lines to Ashton under Lyne, Manchester Airport and Oldham and Rochdale town centres. Funds have also been earmarked for a line through Trafford Park to the Trafford Centre.

The bus network would be overhauled with at least 90% of the population living within a 5 minute walk of a bus service running at least every 20 minutes during the week and every 30 minutes at evenings and weekends.

By the time the weekday, peak-time only charge is introduced in 2013, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority claims that at least 80% of the improvements will be in place.

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