Proponents of Manchester’s congestion charge still have much to do to convince business that the planned improvements to public transport will be in place by 2012. After a debate organised by the Institute of Directors this morning the audience was split 50/50 on whether a peak time road charging scheme to fund £3bn of improvements was justified.
The debate, chaired by me, featured some tetchy exchanges between Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese, who advocates the scheme, and Peel Holdings boss Andrew Simpson, who opposes it. Simpson said the transport improvements should be paid for by selling Manchester Airport.
At the start of the debate we managed to look at 4 real life examples of business people and how they would be affected by the introduction of a congestion charge. We had Laura from Chorlton who takes her son to nursery before hiking into the city centre; John from Worsley who runs a construction business; the owner of a chauffer service, David from Clitheroe, and Anna from Alderley Edge, who works in property PR in Manchester. Not that hard, was it?
The two questions that were asked were as follows: Would you agree to a congestion charge being introduced in Greater Manchester by 2012 on the basis that £3 billion had been spent to transform the transport in Greater Manchester prior to the introduction of charge?
24 said yes, 23 said no, 9 were undecided.
Would you oppose the introduction of a congestion charge if only part of the £3bn had been spent by 2012.
40 said yes, 12 said no, 4 were undecided.
Business support is one of the five key tests of any bid for a pilot Transport Improvement Fund, without it, the bid will not go ahead. On this evidence, I think it looks doomed.