Bristol congestion charge 'still on agenda'
Congestion charging for big cities outside London, such as Bristol, is still firmly on the Government's agenda, according to Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon.
He said he wanted councils to push forward with their plans so they could scoop up the cash that had been allocated for the failed Manchester congestion charge scheme.
The West of England Partnership, made up of Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils, has been investigating plans for a road pricing scheme in this area.
But the resounding 'no' vote when a referendum was held in Manchester last December had sparked widespread speculation it would be the end of the road for congestion charging and the £1.5 billion in the Transport Innovation Fund would be moved to other projects.
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Mr Hoon said: "It isn't the case that the Transport Innovation Fund has been put on the back burner.
"The money is still there and is still available to local authorities who want to meet the terms of the fund.
"There are strings attached, but nevertheless it's a lot of money.
"I have left local authorities in no doubt that since Manchester is not having it, somebody else should."
Mr Hoon also outlined how he wants to come up with ways to give major cities a more flexible transport system like London has.
He said: "Coming to London, as I have done ever since I was a child, one of the things that was obvious about transport in London is that people most of the time have choices.
"They can travel by train, they can travel by tube, they can get the bus, and if they want to pay the congestion change they can get the car.
"One contrast I would make, in those other big provincial cities, is that generally speaking, unless you happen to live on a tram line, or you happen to live on the one line that goes through the city centre on the railway, your chances of getting into a big city from an outlying town or village by public transport depend on you being fortunate enough to be on one bus route. People don't tend to want to take more than one bus in the morning – if you've got to change, the chances are you use the car.
"Part of the challenge for us is to give the kind of choices that are available to commuters in London to people in other big cities.
"That's something we have got to work on, to provide the type of investment that is necessary."