It's been years coming, and the vote is soon to go ahead on the Manchester Congestion Charge.. with the results due on the 12th December.
I currently live in Manchester, just off the Oxford Road - reputed for being the busiest bus route in Europe. It links the students of Fallowfield to their University.. and workers like me to the City Centre. It's a fantastic route, and although prices have gone up a bit recently (£1.20 to get to the City Centre) - it's still a great and easy way to get into the City... and it runs 24 hours a day.
However, I don't work in the City Centre all the time. My office is two suburbs across Manchester in Levenshulme. Again, there's a Bus service that links just outside my flat to Levenshulme, which is great. However, there's also the "Fallowfield Loop." It' a disused railway line that links Chorlton-cum-Hardy to Gorton, and most mornings I cycle the 1.6 miles to work. It's well kept, swept of leaves weekly by Sustrans.
I also cycle into town, though you'd think with all the buses, this wouldn't be too enjoyable. However, there are clearly marked cycle routes and the bus drivers are the most 'cycle-aware' of any Bus drivers I've had the pleasure of cycling past.
So the congestion charge.. I live within the M60, so as soon as I take my car out of the drive I'll have to pay it. However, improvements are promised to the cycling infrastructure, and to the public transport. I think it's only going to improve other areas of Manchester, and help reduce people's dependencies on their cars when travelling in the city. However, I do think the 'boundary' of the congestion charge needs to be revised in some Industrial Areas.
For example, near the Trafford Centre, and just inside the ringroad, there is alot of industry. These Estates have lots of lorries heading in and out of them, many of which head straight out onto the M60 and off onto their journies. Now, one company was quoted as saying they'd be paying £70,000 a year Congestion Charge.. despite not causing any congestion. From an environmental aspect, that's probably indicative of the pollution their causing - so charge them. However, a more realistic solution for them would be to move to the other side of the M60, onto GreenField land, and pollute just the same. Surely it's better to keep them on their current brownfield site - modify the congestion charge zone - and then set emissions reductions targets within the zone.. which is precisely what London have done for Lorries within the M25.
Use your vote.