Public transport and environmental activists from around Greater Manchester will be visiting Eccles Town Centre on Saturday 7th March to promote their growing campaign for “an expanded public transport system that is fully integrated, publicly owned and free at the point of use.”

They will be holding an open-air “open-microphone” public meeting, and collecting signatures for their petition at Eccles Interchange between 12.00 noon and 2.00 pm, and are inviting local people to come along and air their views on the future of public transport in Greater Manchester following the recent crushing defeat of the congestion charge financed TIF proposals for public transport infrastructure improvements, the result of which has left a huge political vacuum around the issue of public transport.

They will be joined by members of Salford Unemployed Centre, Salford TUC and a student contingent from Salford University

Speaking on behalf of the Greater Manchester Campaign, Stephen Hall from Atherton said: “We believe Public transport is an essential public service. We want to see its improvement and expansion throughout Greater Manchester for the benefit of its users, to help reduce traffic from our roads, to reduce pollution and CO2 emissions, and to help protect pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.

“Though many of us support the campaign for simply environmental reasons alone, given that in a recent survey, 72% of the people said they would only give up their cars if they had access to free public transport, the central aim of our campaign, which is for all public transport to be free at the point of use, clearly has a much broader resonance than purely an environmental one.

“We believe the cost of what we are proposing should be financed out of general taxation – just like the NHS is! Public transport should be a truly public service run for the benefit of the public.

“There’d be no need to raise income tax (or VAT) in our opinion, as there’s already more than enough money left from what’s already raised from road fund licenses on cars and lorries, from fuel duty on petrol and diesel, and from the VAT on petrol and diesel, which is over £40 billion annually, as against less than £18 billion spent on everything to do with transport including on all our roads and rail network, to pay for what we are proposing, which is essentially a zero fares policy already enjoyed by millions of our senior citizens and which should be extended to everyone.

“The trouble is we currently use all that surplus, and more, to finance such other things as maintaining our so-called nuclear deterrent, building new aircraft carriers, engaging in war in Afghanistan & Iraq, and most recently bailing out the banks. The list of what else other than transport the surplus is spent on in fact, is almost endless. The reality is it’s simply a question of Governmental priorities. We’d have what we want tomorrow if it were made into a Governmental priority, rather than many of these other things.

“In fact, with the Government committed to massive reductions in CO2 emissions by 2050 we think they are plain daft not to listen to what we’re proposing given the contribution of ‘transport’ generally to overall emission levels, which it’s calculated is as much as a third of the total. Also, when most or all of the cost of what we are proposing would be substantially offset from savings generated as a result of reduced road deaths and respitarory illnesses associated with traffic exhausts, reduced road congestion (which already costs £billions according to the Government’s own estimates) and road repair costs (which also cost £billions annually), the end of the existing transport subsidies to private operators (which additionally costs hundreds of £millions), combined with the increase in income tax receipts generated from the greater number of public transport employees and numerous other financially beneficial spin-offs.

“On any account, what we are fighting for is our contribution to the solution to ever increasing pollution and CO2 emissions.

“It’s our suggestion for tackling traffic congestion 24/7 and not just a peak times, which is all the congestion charge proposed to do, and which thousands of hard pressed local commuters into Manchester were expected to pay for to the tune of over £1200 a year in addition to what they already pay in tax.

“It’s also our contribution to tackling the effects of the credit crunch – putting hundreds if not thousands of pounds of annual transport costs back into ordinary people’s pockets and generating hundreds of new jobs – building more buses, trams and trains, and training and hiring hundreds of new bus, train, and tram drivers and guards, etc.

“If people agree with our idea, an idea whose time has come we believe, or would like to know more about what exactly we are fighting for, in fact even if they disagree with what we are proposing, then we urge them to come along to our Open-Air Forum on Saturday and to listen to our case. It is unassailable in our opinion!”