Saturday, July 26, 2008

Public vote will kill C-charge - ten thoughts as to why

The announcement yesterday that the Greater Manchester authorities backed Trafford Council's call for a referendum will probably sound the death knell for the controversial deal to unlock money for tram extensions and bus lanes in return for a congestion charge. The poll will require 7 of the 10 council areas to back the plan, and that's a tall order. Our calculations reckon only Oldham and Tameside will come close to voting for it, because they reckon they'll get a tram system out of it. The rest will give it a big no. Ten thoughts on it are below:

  1. Stockport, where the good people of Marple will be casting their vote, will deliver a crushing no to the plan - because there is so little in it for them. The outer charging ring cuts through Stockport and will affect school runs, tradesmen, commuters from one part of Stockport to another.
  2. The plans outlined in the GMPTE "consultation brochure" that every house has recieved, aren't well put. Anyone with local knowledge will already have torn great holes in what's on offer. It also reads like glib propaganda that treats the public like fools.
  3. Local knowledge trumps all, and I've heard similar complaints on phone-ins and message boards (I know, nutters, but local nutters) from angry of Leigh, Gatley, Lostock and, yes, Marple. You drill into what's been bashed together in an office in Manchester and you ask where there's supposed to be an extension to the park and ride at Romiley? There's no land to do it. Again, there will be CCTV at Rose Hill. How much will that cost? Buttons. Surely that's out of operational budgets anyway. There is nothing in the current plan about better services.
  4. There's supposed to be a planned interchange at Stockport - again, where? That can only reduce parking spaces, and Stockport station car park is very crowded as it is. Crowded, by the way, with park and riders - going to London on business, mostly.
  5. There will be bigger and longer trains on the Marple line. How? The train companies control the size and type of trains and they don't invest anything like enough in rolling stock. The Department of Transport have said they will fund this, so why is it parcelled into the TIF bid? And even if they did, the delivery schedules are way off. This is not currently within the brief of GMPTE, so how can they claim they can deliver it as part of TIF?
  6. You look at the TIF map that tries to look like a London tube map and there are big thick green lines heading out to Bolton and Leigh. These are for bus lanes. The people of Bolton and Wigan will not vote for a congestion charge to get into Manchester if all they are getting is a bus lane.
  7. TIF is supposed to address congestion where it occurs. It doesn't. The people of Stockport and parts of Tameside do experience congestion, but these are on roads that will be outside of the outer ring - the A6 from Hazel Grove through to Stockport, the M57, the A34 at Gatley.
  8. A peak time congestion charge will raise the money to fund the transport plans. It is predicated on a deal. At a time when trust in government is at such a low ebb, when this government has reneged on investment in the regions so often, why should the voters here trust in another deal.
  9. People also think, there is a congestion charge, it's called fuel at £1.30 a litre. They plan their journeys differently.
  10. And do you know what? Part of me really wants to support this. I really applaud the bravery of a city region authority that wants better trains and trams so badly it is prepared to bet everything on a complex and forward looking plan. I do think too that congestion charging will become a reality in most British cities and that Manchester, by getting in early, WON'T lose a competitive advantage by introducing one now. But these nit picky details I've outlined here reflect what individual people will be doing all over Greater Manchester, and for that reason they will vote no. And when the gravestone is erected over these plans the inscription will read: "we promised them bus lanes to Bolton".

1 comment:

Steve Connor said...

Michael... your final comment is right on the money. Collectively we're in a spot right now where nit-picking and a refusal to believe that change can come is paralysing us.

The one thing I'm smart enough to know is that I can't understand or get my head around every nuance, every detail of what a new, integrated transport network looks like. I have no idea what Leigh's guided busway will actually look like; I can't tell you exactly where all the new school buses will run; I can't tell you to the exact percentage how, in five years time, this will have reduced peak-time traffic.

But I do know that we need to do this, and we need to stand solid behind those who've had the bravery and the foresight to put the deal together. Road pricing is coming anyway; we have one chance at £3 billion; and apart from anything else if we're going through an economic slowdown I for one would like to see an investment package like this hit our city region just when it needs it...

Anyway - you know all this comrade. Let's talk it through over lunch!