This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Manchester turns its back on congestion charge
I think it’s a real shame that the people of Manchester have voted against the introduction of a congestion charge.
The Council had proposed that the Charge would apply at peak times (7am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6.30pm) Monday to Friday. Drivers would cross both an outer ring and an inner ring where they would have had to pay a small fee.
But it looks like this idea is now dead for at least a decade.
What a pity.
The Government had promised that if Manchester voted “Yes” it would release £1.5 billion from its Transport Innovation Fund to improve public transport across the city and a further £1.2 billion would have been borrowed to help with this.
I thought it was a brilliant opportunity to vote for a massive package of transport improvements and economic investment.
The £2.7 billion would, among other things, have paid for double length trams which had the capacity to carry an additional 30,000 passengers each morning and evening.
It would have also paid for a huge expansion of the Metrolink system (41 new stops and 20 miles of additional tracks).
And along with the extra buses, bus lanes and cycle routes, the money would have paid for 180 yellow school buses to take kids safely to and from school.
But none of that’s going to happen now.
No extra jobs will be created and Manchester’s transport system will creak along as it always has.
The ‘Yes’ Campaign never seemed to get off the ground. Certainly, in the visibility stakes the ‘No’ Campaign was way ahead. It had more billboards, leaflets and a stronger advertising campaign which seemed to reinforce its message.
The Council didn't do a good enough job explaining the whole package to voters. Its message seemed confused and weak. It was also a bit elitist. There was an element of "We know what's best for you so you better vote for it" when I think it would have benefited from a more grass-roots approach.
Small business said it would be penalised unfairly by the charge, but it would have adapted – just like it did in London. And it would have found new ways of transporting goods that didn't clog up the roads and harm the environment. Unless you force behaviour to change, nothing will improve.
The Council did all it could to make the charge palatable to voters. For example, it would not have kicked in until 2013 when the vast majority of public transport improvements would have been nearly completed.
I always think you should trust voters to make the right decision. But I can’t help thinking on this occasion it was a missed opportunity and one we will come to regret.