The refusal by Birmingham and West Midlands councils to volunteer for a Government congestion charging scheme means the region will miss out on £3 billion of public transport investment.
Transport Minister Rosie Winterton is expected to announce today that the 10 Greater Manchester councils have been selected to run a road pricing experiment under which motorists will pay up to £5 to enter the city centre at busy times.
In return, the councils are expected to be given £1.2 billion by the Government in addition to a £1.8 billion 30-year loan to improve transportation infrastructure.
The money will be used to upgrade public transport, with major investment for the expansion of Manchester’s tram system, new buses, bus lanes and extra trains.
Investment of £3 billion would easily pay for new Midland Metro tram lines in Birmingham and the Black Country along with massively improved local bus and rail services.
Although the seven West Midlands councils and the passenger transport authority Centro spent more than a year considering bidding for the right to run a congestion charging scheme, they could not reach agreement.
Business leaders warned firms in Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country would be hit by the charges, while politicians feared the experiment would be a vote loser.
There were signs last night of political unease in Manchester at the scheme’s introduction. Labour MP Graham Stringer predicted a backlash at the polls from unhappy motorists.
The Conservative leader of Trafford Council Susan Williams, who is hoping to unseat Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly from the marginal Bolton West seat in the upcoming General Election, said the scheme was “political suicide” for Labour.
“To bring in the congestion charge at a time when the roads of Greater Manchester and the country have been blockaded by truck drivers and motorcyclists protesting about taxes on the motorist seems to be an act of political suicide,” Coun Williams added.
But Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, said: “If the politicians of Greater Manchester have the strength and confidence to do what is clearly in the long-term interests of this conurbation and all its people, we won’t be punished at the ballot box, we will be rewarded.”