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Manchester's congestion charge: pay-to-leave

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Manchester council looks set to pick up a big pile of cash from central government in exchange for setting up a two-tier congestion charge system to tax drivers who enter or leave the city.

The congestion zone covers most of Manchester. You will pay to go into the centre in the morning and pay again to leave in the evening. Unlike London there are two zones, inner and outer, likely with different charges. The system gets the benefit of £1.2bn in central government grants from Transport for Innovation, and the council is also taking out a £1.8bn 30-year loan.

Both zones will operate between 7.00am and 9.30am but will only charge on journeys toward the centre. From 4.00pm til 6.30pm drivers will be charged to leave the city but there will be no charge for entering. Weekends will be free.

Drivers will pay a deposit for an "electronic tag" which will trigger "electronic beacons", the BBC reports.

Charges are provisional because the scheme won't be ready until 2013.

Opposition to the charges comes from local businesses, which have set up a pressure group called Greater Manchester Momentum Group. The group is worried about the scale of the scheme, one of the world's largest, as well as its impact on business and staff. It also notes that large public sector IT projects "carry huge risks of failure".

The scheme is likely to be hugely unpopular for a central government already accused of over-taxing UK motorists. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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