Today's the day that the Greater Manchester local authorities are to be told they will be able to proceed with a bid to unlock £1bn worth of funding to improve the public transport system. The catch? the introduction of a peak time congestion charge in 2013.
There's a good summary of the issues here. The BBC coverage is very good, here, and this backgrounder is also useful.
As the editor of a business magazine I get asked at Insider to "come off the fence" and join the opposing campaigns, the Greater Manchester Momentum Group and United City. It brings into focus what we are here to do and where the media should stand. I actually think it's such an important issue that the least we can do is provide a forum for informed and grown up debate. Taking sides is futile.
I don't think Manchester has done very well out of this government. The track record on delivering on promises has been very poor. As this is a project built upon a deal, I feel uneasy about it.
Public transport should be much better. England's second city is important to the development of the economy of the nation and NEEDS a tram system and a train network that people would want to travel on. Whether this is the best way to unlock the finance to do that is the key issue now. The bid would NOT be happening if it was just a means to charge motorists. The prize should be a better train system.
One of the lines that would get better trains under the plan is one to and from Marple. There is also a very ambiguous commitment to do a study into whether the Marple line should be converted into a Metrolink type operation. Detail on this is quite hard to come by.
And here's a savage irony. Due to a power failure today, trains into Manchester Piccadilly have been severely delayed. One of my guys has taken 4 hours to get to work today - a new record. Appalling.
* There will be a special Manchester Business programme on BBC Radio Manchester tonight from 6pm to 7pm, with a debate between leading opponent of the congestion charge, Andrew Simpson from Peel and Chris Oglesby from Bruntwood, who is in favour. The show will be presented by Steve Saul and me.