MOTORISTS in Bolton could pay around £5.5 million a year to drive in and out of Manchester if congestion charging is introduced.

Charging zones at the M60 and on roads into Manchester city centre are among proposals in a possible regional bid to the Government for £3 billion to improve public transport.

The Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA) would get around £1 billion up front with £2 billion borrowed against future congestion charge income.

Bolton Council's Lib Dem leader Cllr Roger Hayes, said he worked out the £5.5 million figure after councillors were given estimates of rush-hour journeys from Bolton to Manchester.

He said Bolton's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) working group was told around 12,000 cars would pass through at least one of the two proposed charging rings.

Cllr Hayes calculated that would equate to £21,000 a day, £106,000 a week and £5.5 million a year paid by Bolton motorists alone.

Over the 30-year period during which congestion charge income would be used to repay the £2 billion in loans, Bolton drivers would pay £165 million.

In return it is estimated that the town would get £120 million of the £3 billion cash for public transport improvements.

Cllr Hayes, who believes a referendum should be held in Bolton to allow residents to decide on the proposals, said he believed that was not enough.

"It is very questionable whether that represents good value," he said. "Admittedly there would be fewer cars if a congestion charge was in place but even then we have been told the estimated reduction in traffic would be 10 per cent which I think is disappointing.

"Cars passing through both congestion rings would pay £5 a day and I think that is too much and it could be increased by inflation.

"It poses the question as to whether we are trying to bring an income stream in or whether we are looking to discourage use of vehicles.

"The trouble with long term loans is that you can start becoming more concerned about getting the income in rather than discouraging use of cars."

The calculations by Cllr Hayes were based on officer estimates that 7,000 cars from Bolton currently cross the M60 ring in morning rush hour, which would cost £2.

Of these, about 1,300 carry on through what would be the inner charging zone, which would cost £1.

Returning to Bolton during the evening rush hour, where the charge would be £1 for each zone, the figures drop to 5,000 and 900.

Roy Sammonds, chairman of the Bolton Institute of Advanced Motorists, and a congestion charge sceptic, said: "£5.5 million a year is a lot of money. We are talking £5 a day and £25 a week, which takes some covering.

"Some businesses have no alternative to using cars or lorries and would have to pay it.

"They would be left wondering 'can we afford to carry on working there or have we got to do something different'?"

"Even if real public transport alternatives are put in place they will have to reduce the prices to attract more people."

It is estimated that the congestion charge will rake in £52 million a year across Greater Manchester.

Improvements planned for Bolton include a £23 million transport interchange near the Trinity Street train station, an 11-mile bus lane to Manchester and more carriages on trains.

Bolton Council last week gave its backing for the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) to bid for the £3 billion.

AGMA is expected to decide whether or not to press ahead with the bid on July 27.