Manchester Congestion Charge, Peel Holdings and the Greater Manchester Momentum Group

The row between the Greater Manchester Momentum Group (GMMG) and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) over the Manchester Congestion Charge has caught my attention this week.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m broadly behind a congestion charge for Manchester, the mechanics of actually paying the charge are an issue for me and I can see a good case for making commercial vehicles exempt, but on the whole I’m in favour of anything that discourages commuting by car. This can only be a long-term benefit for same day couriers in the Manchester area.

According to this report in the Manchester Evening News, GMMG have come up with their own alternative proposal to the congestion charge and are suggesting that Manchester’s public transport improvements should be funded not by a congestion charge, but by a 2p in the pound increase in business rates and the selling off of Manchester Airport, which is currently owned by the 10 councils of Greater Manchester. They’re apparently also “calling for the removal of millions of tonnes of freight from the roads”.

As I’d not seen the leaflet which outlines these proposals I went over to the GMMG website to see the full details for myself. I couldn’t find any mention of this new proposal, but there were a few other points of interest on the site.

Firstly, this map. Now maybe I misheard or misunderstood the original congestion charge proposal, but I’m almost certain that the original ‘inner ring’ boundary was to be the Inner Ring Road (Mancunian Way, Trinity Way, Great Ancoats Street), when did it move to the Intermediate Ring Road and when was half of Trafford Park included in it?

On the BBC website I found an article Manchester congestion charge: myth and reality, apparently written by ‘Lewis Atter – Architect of the Manchester congestion charging plan’. In the article, apparently written on June 30th 2008, he states clearly “Manchester’s charging area will consist of two huge cordons, one just inside the M60 orbital route and the second roughly around the inner ring road.” – this is exactly what I’d remembered from the initial proposal.

I then discovered this Manchester C-charge area unveiled, apparently written 10 days earlier it clearly shows the boundaries of the ‘inner ring’ roughly following the route of the Intermediate Ring Road.

Could it really be possible that Lewis Atter, the head of KPMG’s global transport advisory group, the ‘architect of the Manchester congestion charging plan’ and presumably (one would hope) somewhat of an expert in Manchester’s transport system, doesn’t know the difference between the Inner Ring Road and the Intermediate Ring Road? A cynic might believe that this was a delibarate attempt to mislead the public.

There are actually several maps on the BBC website outlining the proposed boundaries of the ‘inner ring’, the best being this one, this seems to be a map from an official source, outlining the proposed options, none of which could be said to be “roughly around the inner ring road” and just as importantly none of which includes the large areas of Trafford Park, Salford and Stretford included on the map on the GMMG website.

Back on the GMMG website I was intrigued to note that their members include the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), The Road Haulage Association (RHA) and a few companies like AK Worthington and TDG who are involved in road transport.

Do the FSB really support a 2p in the pound increase in business rates? Which businesses would be liable for this; businesses within the M60, businesses throughout Greater Manchester, businesses throughout the North West? How will this help Manchester’s economy and encourage companies to move to Manchester, rather than Liverpool, for example?

And are the RHA really supporting a plan that would lead to “the removal of millions of tonnes of freight from the roads”? Personally I find it impossible to believe that an organisation that exists to represent the interests of the road haulage industry would support a plan that would damage the industry that they’re meant to represent.

It seems to me that the RHA would be better supporting the proposals of the rival pressure group United City. While they’re clearly in favour of a congestion charge, they’re suggesting that its impact on businesses be lessened by a cap of only one charge for business vehicles passing through a charging ring more than once during the charging periods. This will help businesses which, for example, have to make peak-time deliveries across the M60 and inner charging rings.

Personally I’d prefer a full exemption for commercial vehicles but the United City proposal seems a good compromise.

I note that one of the main movers behind the GMMG campaign appears to be either Peel Holdings or the Peel Group – the owners of the Manchester Ship Canal, the Trafford Centre, Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and the City of Manchester Airport (Barton Aerodrome).

In September 2006 Peel announced a £4.5 billion waterside redevelopment scheme for the Wirral waterfront, followed by an announcement in March 2007 of a £5.5 billion regeneration of the Liverpool waterfront. Their website contains no announcements of significant future developments within Greater Manchester, the area that the GMMG group seem to wish to burden with extra business rates.

GMMG’s proposals include the sale of Manchester Airport plc, owners of Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside airports. Is it really just a coincidence that Peel already own four airports and a group that they’re a member of is proposing putting another four on the market?

Now let’s go back to GMMG’s plan for “the removal of millions of tonnes of freight from the roads”, while I’m all in favour of that I wonder what alternative means of transport into Manchester the Group have in mind. Could it possibly be the transport of goods from the (Peel owned) Mersey docks into Manchester along the (Peel owned) Manchester Ship Canal? Like this maybe?

Maybe unsurprisingly, a WHOIS search for the domain gmmgroup.co.uk reveals that the GMMG website is actually owned by Peel Holdings Ltd.

One final thought, if the Peel Group are so dead set against charging for road use maybe they could set an example by stopping charging the ridiculous 12p toll for crossing a dried up river bed at Warburton Bridge.

Posted under Tolls, Charges & Fines

Posted by Alec at 12:43 pm, August 9, 2008

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