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Congestion charge could damage region’s economic future, says FTA

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities' (AGMAs') proposals for a congestion charge system could damage the economic future of Greater Manchester: that's the message from the Freight Transport Association (FTA) in its submission to the consultation. AGMA shows a total lack of understanding of the importance of the logistics industry to the region and warns that the consequences for businesses in the area could be bad.

Companies operating within the proposed charging zone could see their transport costs rise significantly, with little or no time tangible savings which may come about due to reductions in the level of traffic. With businesses from retail to construction already feeling the pinch of the economic downturn, the timing could not be worse.

Those businesses operating in and around Trafford Park, traditionally an industrial centre for the whole region, will face a particular burden. And while the scheme proposes discounts at a public transport level, no such considerations are made for the business community. FTA is questioning AGMA's commitment to the economic viability of the region.

Malcolm Bingham, Head of Roads Policy at FTA, said:

“Those behind this scheme had an opportunity to show their commitment to businesses in Greater Manchester, but they have wasted it, with poorly set out proposals which show little or no benefit to residents or companies operating within the area. FTA fully supports measures that keep goods and services moving as quickly and sustainably as possibly, but this scheme fails on all counts. While we welcome the plans to improve public transport options in the area, this should not be done at the expense of business and, ultimately, the consumer.”

The journey time savings outlined in the proposals offer minimal benefits at best, with just five or ten minutes shaved off certain journeys, giving little real opportunity to reschedule their operations. The disbenefits of not only paying the charge each time the boundary is crossed, but also the administrative costs that will have to be borne by each business simply do not outweigh the savings. For companies operating – or working with – large fleets, those costs could be substantial, particularly for those in the retail sector.

Malcolm Bingham added:

“At this time of economic uncertainty, regional authorities should be looking to support businesses, not make things harder for them by placing additional financial and administrative burdens on them.”

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