Bolton West MP Ruth Kelly has been handed one of the toughest challenges of her political career by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Ms Kelly has been made Transport Secretary, with responsibility for overseeing road pricing schemes, including Greater Manchester's proposed congestion charge.

Last night she told The Bolton News it was a "wonderful opportunity".

Ms Kelly said she had "no idea" which job she would be given when she was called into Number 10 as Mr Brown formed his first cabinet yesterday.

"I was delighted and I'm really looking forward to it," she said.

"Gordon made it clear how central the Department for Transport is. It affects us all. We have made some good progress but there's lots of work to be done."

For Ms Kelly, it is set to be another controversial role and Mr Brown is likely to be keeping a close eye on how well she fares, not least because of criticism from some quarters that she has previously appeared out of her depth in high-profile roles.

Before being made Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in May, 2006, Ms Kelly had endured a tumultuous 17 months as Education Secretary.

She faced criticism over plans to introduce "trust" schools and withstood tremendous pressure to resign when it was revealed some teachers on the sex offenders' register had been allowed to carry on working in schools.

When she became Communities Secretary, she had the difficult task of introducing a strategy for tackling extremism and to "win the hearts and minds" of British Muslims.

Ms Kelly will find herself again confronting controversy, having been given the Department of Transport, which gives her responsibility not only for road charging, but also other sensitive areas such as speed cameras.

One of her first tasks will be to deal with the congestion charge, which could be rolled out across Greater Manchester from 2012.

Councils in the area are currently consulting the public on the proposals and are expected to submit their proposals by the end of next month.

It would see motorists paying up to £5 a day to travel in and out of Manchester at peak times on weekdays.

The introduction of road charging would be linked to £3 billion worth of investment in public transport in the region.

Ms Kelly said: "We have to think about congestion and the issue of road pricing and do it in a way that supports our environmental obligations and gives people real choices about their transport decisions.

"The idea is to tackle congestion while managing demand through better public transport.

"Greater Manchester is at the forefront of that thinking and its authorities are right to identify congestion as a barrier to economic growth."

Ms Kelly said it was important to work closely with local councils once the they had submitted the bid for the £3 billion and the application to go ahead with road charging.

Her background in economics and experience as Local Government Secretary would stand her in good stead, she said.

She said she was well aware of complaints about packed commuter trains, having often travelled between Bolton and Manchester.

"Investing in public transport to make sure it's efficient is a key priority," she said.

Bolton Institute of Advanced Motorists chairman Roy Sammons said he was surprised by Ms Kelly's appointment to such a prominent role.

"Gordon Brown has given her another chance and she'll have to work hard," he said.

"Her relations with the public and persuasiveness have been her weak points in the past and she will need to convince people congestion charging is the right thing.

"But she will just be a figurehead. It's the team below her that's the key element and they won't change."

Preva Crossley, Bolton representative for Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Campaign, said: "It's possible she's the right woman for the job.

"All we want is someone who will take charge and look after what passengers want, which is regular and reliable public transport."

Ms Kelly will also have to keep happy the large number of air passengers, at a time when environmentalists push for a major reduction in air travel and airport expansion.

She will find herself thrown into the deep end almost immediately with her new department due to spell out the Government's short-term and long-term plans for the railways.