Social Unacceptability of Urban Road Pricing: Manchester, the Toll, and Democracy

“La Fabrique du Mouvement” Seminar: Paris, March 2012
By Laurent Fouillé

This paper analyses the enormous controversy created by the Greater Manchester project to implement a congestion charge. Between 2005 and 2008, a plan progressively emerged to build the biggest urban road pricing scheme in the world, constituted by a double ring, the outer one along the M60 orbital motorway, thus creating a toll zone of 128 km2. This very unpopular project was expected to finance part of a massive £3 billion investment plan for public transport. In the end, a local referendum irreversibly rejected the project which was cancelled. Nonetheless, analysis of the debates and the failure of the project show how motorists refuse to be reduced to a status of economic agents. It demonstrates the social unacceptability of a traffic regulation policy strictly based on price and market mechanisms.

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