Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said funding for more buses and trains and new tram lines would be cancelled unless a majority of Greater Manchester’s population voted “yes” in the road pricing referendum to be held next month.
Opponents of Manchester’s proposed charging scheme have been angered by Mr Hoons comments and they have accused the Government of trying to bully the city into voting for a tax on commuting by car. Mr Hoon added that people should be under no illusion of the outcome, if they vote “no” there will be no Government funding whatsoever, not even a small proportion of what is needed.
Under the proposed scheme motorists would have electronic tags fitted to their cars and set up prepaid accounts. Up to £5 per day would be deducted automatically from their accounts as they passed roadside beacons on an inner and outer ring around the city. Drivers in Manchester would only have to pay at peak times of travel but who is to say that this would never change? Drivers on the minimum wage would receive a twenty percent discount but only for the first two years and employees on the Trafford Park industrial estate would be exempt for three years but what happens after then? If these discounts and exemptions have been put in place to attract “yes” votes then perhaps motorists should be looking at the bigger picture.
Ministers fear that a “no” vote in Manchester will end any hope of introducing charging across the country for a least a decade. Mr Hoon says that if it is a “yes” vote the total amount on offer to Manchester would be increased. Manchester is a city that has tried for years to get more funding to expand its tram system and now the only way it can receive anything is if the motorists say “yes” to yet another tax.