Manchester’s traffic jams, time for a congestion charge?
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Manchester’s traffic jams, time for a congestion charge?

To those of us who brave the morning commute the news Manchester is the second most congested city in the UK will come as no surprise.

In fact, to those of us used to impatiently drumming our fingers on the steering wheel and glowering at the ranks of stationary tail lights in front of us, the only surprise is there is another city which has worse traffic problems than Manchester.

Capital chaos

London, of course, tops the bill when it comes to traffic congestion. The capitals problems though will provide little succour to those of us who spend an average of 39 hours a year stuck in Manchester's rush hour traffic jams.

Apparently, as well as exposing the craziness which is called commuting, the numbers compiled by traffic data company INRIX , also highlight the massive cost to the economy of a driver sitting motionless in gridlocked traffic.

Apparently, and who knows how they work this out, traffic jams costs around £31 billion every year which works out at £968 per driver. The emotional costs of drivers regularly tearing their hair out on the way to and from work hasn't been calculated.

The government though insist they are fighting fire with fire and are investing money to tackle the UK's traffic problems.

According to the Department of Transport £1.3 billion will be spent by the current government to upgrade the nation’s roads and ease congestion. Regular commuters will say a large chunk of the cash needs to be spent right now in Manchester.

The league table

According to INRIX the top five cities in the UK for gridlocked traffic are:

1) London - 73 hours

2) Manchester - 39 hours

3) Aberdeen - 35 hours

4) Birmingham - 34 hours

5) Edinburgh - 31 hours

Tine for a congestion charge?

The new research has once again awoken the debate on whether or not Manchester should follow London's lead and introduce a congestion charge.

Proposals to bring in congestion charges were rejected in 2008 but, with the issue of gridlocked traffic and the air pollution it causes getting progressively worse, many believe it is time to revisit the subject.

An independent think-tank, Centre for Cities , certainly believes a congestion charge is essential. Their chief executive Alexandra Jones told the Manchester Evening News “Manchester city centre is the city-region’s economic hub, but traffic congestion is hampering commuters, public transport and businesses, and is restricting the city-region’s economic growth.

“Introducing a congestion charge would help address that problem, and could also generate funding to improve public transport ....."

Divided opinions

The idea of a congestion charge is deeply divisive with very passionate proponents and an equally vociferous opposition.

Those in favour of the charge site advantages such as less traffic, less pollution and more funding for public transport but are countered by loss of choice, inconvenience and having to rely on a public transport system which is often seen as overcrowded, unreliable and expensive.

Whichever side of the debate you are on it is sure to be a hot topic during the first mayoral election campaign in May.

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