BOLTON has been earmarked as a town where congestion charges could be introduced in future.

A map drawn up as part of a regional bid for £3 billion in transport improvements, highlights the town as an area where the controversial charge - currently destined for the streets of Manchester - could be phased in.

The Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) bid has been backed by Bolton Council, but leader, Cliff Morris, last night claimed he had not seen the map, which was produced by officers of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA) and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA).

Cllr Morris, who represents Bolton on AGMA, the regional body which would submit the bid, said the town's inclusion on the map was "unacceptable".

Cllr Morris said: "I and my colleagues are disappointed that GMPTA chose to depict a graphic indicating a future charging zone which the executive of this council are in complete opposition to.

"If I had been aware of the contents of the leaflet, its distribution and production would have been opposed. We will be monitoring the activities of this partnership more closely in the future."

Cllr Morris stressed the AGMA executive had not agreed a future charging scheme for Bolton, adding that his Labour group would block any such plans.

Bolton's Conservative leader, Cllr John Walsh, said he would also oppose any congestion charge in Bolton, adding: "I welcome Cllr Morris's comments but if leaders have not seen this leaflet they are failing in their duties.

"The very fact Bolton is included as a possible future charging location is indicative of the fact that this scheme is being pushed through too quickly with too little consultation."

Lib Dem leader Cllr Roger Hayes, said he was "suspicious" of Bolton's inclusion on the map.

He said that given Labour's control of the GMPTA and AGMA the failure of its leaders to check the leaflet was "incompetent".

Cllr Hayes said he had "big doubts" about a congestion charge in Bolton. He added it could not be justified at the present time, but said it was "silly" to dismiss the idea out of hand in the future.

A spokesman for the TIF project team said: "The TIF leaflet is intended to be open and honest and therefore the graphic indicating a future charging zone around Bolton is simply an indication that at some point in the future, the charging scheme could be extended.

"It is important to realise that there is nothing planned, but it would have been wrong not to show that at some point in the future, the scheme may be extended."

Nine other locations, including Wigan, Bury, Rochdale and Manchester Airport are also identified as possible future charging zones.

If the Government accepts AGMA's TIF bid, Bolton would get a £23 million transport interchange near the Trinity Street train station, an 11-mile bus lane to Manchester and more carriages on trains.

The council's executive committee is expected to confirm Bolton Council's backing for the bid on July 23.