In today's Sun their ex-editor Kelvin MacKenzie has a column on the referendum in Greater Manchester on whether they should have a congestion charge, like in London.
MacKenzie isn't within my usual area on this blog. However, readers of my main blog will know that I have a keen interest in public transport matters and so I'll make an exception to comment on this, especially as I used to commute to work in Manchester from east Lancashire - by bus due to the appaling traffic, which has not noticably improved whenever I have been back - before I moved down to London, so I feel that I know a lot more about the topic than he does.
The idea is to charge people for driving into and out of the M60 with a further, higher charge for people who drive within Manchester city centre. It's not quite a blunt instrument as London's charge, as it would only apply during rush-hour, not the whole of the daytime and would only cover journeys which go with the flow of the main traffic, i.e. you would be charged for driving into Manchester in the morning and out of there in the evening, but not if you were travelling out of Manchester in the morning and into it in the evening. Furthermore, it would not be enforced until the planned public transport improvements which will eventually be funded by the revenue from it - including further extensions to the Metrolink tram network, including a badly-needed second line through the city centre, more buses and a version of London's Oystercard system - are actually in place.
Anyway, on to his piece.
He lists 10 "reasons" as to why people within Greater Manchester should vote against it, all of which boil down to the usual "War on Motorist" rubbish that the Sun seems to propagate. He also completely ignore the fact that Manchester does have a relatively decent public transport network at the moment and so it's not unreasonable to encourage people to use it.
He lists the fact that people would have pay £5 per day or £1200 to drive to work, ignoring the fact that lots of people already use public transport to get to work in Manchester and so would not be effected. He actually lists both the daily and annual charge as two separate "reasons" and
so that is in fact one "reason", not two, which is actually flawed so he's down to eight "reasons" straight away.
He also gives as two further "reasons" the fact there will be an initial charging area and that it may increase in size in the future, which in my experience would be no bad thing, and then states that this is a way to bring in road-pricing, i.e. it's the same point made three times. So that's another "three reasons" which are actually one "reason" which again is flawed, so that five "reasons" left.
He says that everyone pays and claims that the charge will lead to higher prices in, amongst other places, pubs and so he appears to be condoning drink-driving. He also states that the NHS will have to exempt people who have regular appointments. Not if they use public transport they won't. Four "reasons".
He states that each council in Greater Manchester would have to pay £120 million to pay for the planned public transport upgrades. He appears to miss - or, depending on your view, completely ignore - the fact that by raising money from a congestion charge, less would need to be borrowed. That's thee "reasons".
He rails against the fact that Manchester CC was told off by Ofcom for being biased. While it is correct that they were told off, he fails to say how and why this impacts on the charge itself. Two "reasons" against it.
He concern trolls (for the lack of a better term) about people on minimum wage having a discount, but states that only 7% of people would qualify. This suggests that there are a lot of jobs around which, if not decent-paying are enough to live off (this is Manchester and its suburbs we're talking about, not London). I'll won't allow this this reason either as another of the aims of the scheme is to have lower bus fairs, which would help people on low wages. One "reason" left.
The remaining "reason" is the fact that the roads aren't busy, but the motorways are and the charge does not deal with this. Experience from London shows that it leads to a drop in traffic levels over a long-term period (yes, the levels have finally gone back up to what they were pre-Charge, but that shows that it has had a big impact as they would be a lot higher if it was not there.). Anyway, as I stated above, I know from experience that certain areas, for example Bury New Road, are at virtual standstill during rush hour, so he's wrong. In any event, the charge does cover motorways so he's wrong on this as well. That's no "reasons" left. Oh dear!
By the way, he doesn't mention the fact that since the charge was introduced in London traffic levels have decreased and life expectancy has improved as well as the fact that it has raised money for public transport improvements. I wonder why?