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One of the key topics of conversation in Manchester these days seems to be the issue of the congestion charge.
There are many arguments which address the issue of whether or not it's a good idea to levy this extra charge in order to gain a much improved public transport system.
The problem in Manchester is that any balanced debate is being overwhelmed by the noise and kerfuffle being generated by the two main lobbying groups "Manchester Momentum" and "United City". These two groups are so driven by self interest that it becomes almost impossible to see beyond the hype.
Manchester Momentum stands against the charge and is backed by Peel Holdings who own most of Trafford Park. Trafford Park as many of you who live around Manchester will know is one large haulage and distribution centre and sits within the congestion charging zone. You might wonder what impact the congestion charge will have on land prices in the area. Could it be that the lorry owners would consider moving their warehouses outside the charging zone driving down property values?
On the other hand, United City is backed by many of the city centre property developers. They like the idea of the charge because it could inflate property values in the city centre. From a commercial perspective, the city has such a critical mass it's unlikly that the office market will be adversely affected. However, at the moment there's a lot of empty domestic property in Manchester city centre which is rapidly going down in value. When/If the charge is instigated there will be a big advantage to living in the city, as you won't need to pay the "commuter levy".
I not certain if the charge is a good or a bad thing, I can see real benefits in having a much improved public transport infrastructure but I don't know if the proposed charges are the best way of funding it. Manchester is such a great city though that's been created by taking big steps when needed, I don't think we should be frightened of change we should just realise it's implications and be able to make an informed decision.
The one thing I am certain of is that we're unlikely to get an impartial view from either of the lobbying groups. The only place to go to get unbiased information so that you can make up your own mind is the Greater Manchester Future Transport site.