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Manchester says 'NO' to £3bn TIF plans

Mancunians have voted not to accept a £3bn package of transport improvements and a peak-time congestion charge by a margin of 3.7 to 1, leaving the government's road user charging policy in tatters.

Polls closed yesterday in 10 of Greater Manchester's authorities. At least seven authorities needed to vote 'yes' to carry the vote. This failed by a significant degree, with not one single authority voting 'Yes'.

'No' votes outnumbered 'Yes' votes by a factor of more than three-to-one.

Leader of Manchester city council Sir Richard Leese, said: "The Referendum has given a very clear outcome.

"I'm sure the economic downturn, which is hitting everyone hard, has had a part to play. Investment in public transport in Manchester will remain a priority for the City Council and our commitment to face up to the challenges going forward remains undiminished.

"We can now expect these resources to be re-allocated to other parts of the country including London.

"Businesses will now have to accept that rising congestion on the roads is a cost they will have to bear and factor this into their plans. They will also have to face the prospect of a shrinking labour pool as congestion begins to bite – restricting the number of suitable employees available for any role by as much as 22%," he said.

Debates into whether to accept the vote have split the city in two.

The 'Yes' campaign said the improvements would transform the city. The 'No' campaign say the congestion charge will cripple commuters.

Chair of the 'Yes' campaign Lis Phelan, said: "This is a disappointing result but the challenge now is to look to the future. Greater Manchester has just turned down some real protection from the recession.

"The challenge now will be to keep that campaigning strength together to fight for the public transport investment that the region so obviously needs," she said.

The plans would have invested £1.5bn of government money, coming from the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) pot, matched by money raised from a peak-time congestion charge that would begin in 2013.

The congestion charging zone would have been the largest in Britain - larger than the existing scheme in London.

Manchester's plans proposed a major extension of the Metrolink tram system, particularly to south Manchester and Manchester airport, longer trains and more buses. These plans are now in limbo.

The idea was to reduce public dependence on the car by providing better public transport.

The congestion charge would have been capped at £5 per day once introduced. Motorists would pay at peak times only, when crossing the M60 motorway or an inner boundary.

What Manchester will not get:

  • 35km of new Metrolink tramways, including new links to Manchester Airport, East Didsbury, Ashton under Lyne and Trafford Park.

  • Thameslink-style platform extensions for local train platforms, to accommodate extra carriages.

  • Park and ride facilities at tram and train stations

  • Eight transport interchanges

  • New cycle routes

  • Expanded bus network

ICE vice president, Scott Steedman said: "A real opportunity has been missed here with the 'no' lobby taking the ballot in Manchester. If we are ever going to succeed in cutting congestion and reducing carbon emissions we need bold and progressive initiatives to both effectively manage the demands placed on our road network and also improve public transport.

"I suspect the result is largely due to the fact that the debate leading up to the vote seemed only to focus on the introduction of congestion charging, when really it should have been about the first class public transport system that the investment would have delivered in Manchester – one that would have set the standard for the rest of the country.

"Engineers have a vital role in helping to communicate the advantages that investment in infrastructure can bring. Perhaps if they had been more involved in Manchester the public debate would have focused less on the cost to some individuals and more on the benefit to the whole community," he said.

Other cities such as Nottingham, Cambridge, Newcastle, Leeds and Bristol have been watching the developments with interest.

The £2bn TIF pot of cash could acommodate a larger scheme, such as Manchester, in addition to a smaller scheme, such as proposed in Bristol. Cities around the UK could drop their plans or decide to capitalise on Manchester's decision.

Those Results In Full:

BOLTON - 48.8% turnout, Yes: 20,529, No: 76,910

BURY - 57.4% turnout, Yes: 16,563, No: 64,001

MANCHESTER - 46.1% turnout, Yes: 43,593, No: 113,064

OLDHAM - 54.4% turnout, Yes: 17,571, No: 68,884

ROCHDALE - 50.8% turnout, Yes: 17,333, No: 61,686

SALFORD - 57.0% turnout, Yes: 14,603, No: 79,326

STOCKPORT - 59.0% turnout, Yes: 24,090, No: 103,706

TAMESIDE - 60.7% turnout, Yes: 16,323, No: 83,105

TRAFFORD - 63.6% turnout, Yes: 20,445, No: 83,568

WIGAN - 45.3% turnout, Yes: 27,810, No: 78,565


Totals
: 812,815 voted 'No', and 218,860 voted 'Yes'.

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