LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Voters in the northwestern English city of Manchester have rejected proposals to introduce a traffic congestion toll despite the offer of a 3 billion pound ($4.46 billion) investment in local public transport.
It was the second setback in recent weeks for advocates of traffic pricing in Britain after London announced last month it would be scrapping part of its congestion zone.
More than one million people voted in the Manchester referendum that threw out the plans when the results were announced on Friday.
Campaigners for and against the charge proposals had waged a vigorous battle, with opponents claiming the scheme would mean drivers paying an extra 100 pounds a month.
Manchester businessman Robin Smith, of the Stop The Charge campaign, hailed the result.
“It just shows how out of touch the politicians who tried to impose this on us were,” he told BBC television
Lis Phelan, chair of the Yes Campaign said she was very disappointed.
“Unfortunately this became a referendum about a congestion charge and not about public transport with the congestion charges as an element of it,” she told the BBC.
Central government had promised to put 1.5 billion pounds toward the 2.8 billion pound cost of the scheme, which included new light railway lines, extra local trains, improved bus services and better cycling facilities.
Last month, London Mayor Boris Johnson said he would scrap a western extension to the British capital’s congestion zone after two-thirds of Londoners and businesses said they wanted it removed.
London introduced Britain’s first traffic charging scheme in 2003, with drivers paying 8 pounds a day to travel through the capital’s center.
Under Manchester’s plans, drivers would have been charged up to five pounds a day during peak hours from 2013.
Editing by Paul Casciato