Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has again ruled out a 'Congestion Charge' but says he is keeping his options open on bus reforms.
On congestion and air quality, Mr Burnham said: ‘I am open to any idea – except, along with my 10 council leader colleagues, introducing a Congestion Charge.
‘Until we have delivered major improvements to other modes of transport, and given them a genuine alternative to the car, you cannot hit them with an unavoidable tax simply for going to work.’
Placing the blame for a lack of integrated local transport at the door of central government, Mr Burnham said he had written to transport secretary Chris Grayling to notify him of his intention to establish a Greater Manchester Strategic Transport Board.
He said leaving bus services to the free market has not worked and that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority would use the powers in this year’s Bus Services Act ‘at the earliest opportunity to drive through some major improvements’.
This would begin with writing to bus operators to demand extra data, he said, leading to a consultation on plans for bus market reform in the summer with the aim of making a decision by the end of next year.
He stressed: ‘To be clear, I am keeping an open mind on the different options of improving bus services.’
Speaking at the Urban Transport Group conference on Wednesday, Mr Burnham said the ‘unsustainable level’ of congestion on roads in the North resulted from governments ‘failing to invest in the infrastructure and services we need and failing to create services across all modes which are affordable, integrated and accountable – in other words, a genuine alternative to the car’.
He added: ‘This is also a story of failed ideology, policy incoherence and lack of public accountability. And the failure of Government to give power to local leaders to develop coherent transport plans means they have been unable to correct these flaws.’
Mr Burnham said that among the basic standards he would expect from a reformed bus system was more affordable and simplified fares, integrated with the Metrolink tram system and with contactless payment and a daily cap.
He added: ‘Whilst we will continue to work closely with Transport for the North to develop an integrated smart ticketing system across the north, we also want to make more immediate progress. So today I can confirm that in the second half of next year we will introduce the first phase of contactless payments on Metrolink.’
He added: ‘So alongside the wider improvements we want to make to transport, we’ll consider practicable ideas like stricter controls on road works, providing people with more real-time information and encouraging employers to adopt more flexible working arrangements to stagger the rush hour.’