CRITICS of Greater Manchester's congestion charge bid have hit out after learning the process has cost nearly £10 million.

If approved by the Government, the bid would bring in £3 billion in public transport improvements, partly funded by a charge of up to £5 per day on roads into Manchester. Charges could be extended to Bolton under later phases.

Council chiefs were given £3.2 million by the Government to help fund the bid, which has included consultants' reports, leaflet distributions to homes and a survey of 5,000 people.

But the remaining £6.6 million has come from Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority coffers, which are swelled by money from the 10 contributing councils, including Bolton. Those funds could include money from council tax payers and government grants.

Cllr John Walsh, leader of Bolton's Conservative group, which opposed the bid, said: "We have always complained this bid was far too costly.

"There are no guarantees the bid would be successful and the money could have been spent on public transport instead."

Bolton's Liberal Democrats backed the bid, despite doubts about its overall benefit, but group leader Cllr Roger Hayes said the sum spent on the bid was "horrific".

"They should have been more careful with the costings when dealing with council tax payers money," he said. "If it brings in £3 billion in transport improvements, it may prove to be money well spent, but if we do not get it or decide we do not want to go ahead with it, it will be money down the drain."

But Bolton Council and Labour group leader, Cllr Cliff Morris, defended the cost.

He said: "We were told from the beginning this would cost £10 million and it has come out at less than that."

He said the GMPTA had put together the bid without requesting extra cash from Bolton and that the exercise had cost the borough's council tax payers less than £1 million.

Cllr Morris, who has vowed to oppose any congestion charge zone around Bolton, added: "Without bidding for things like this you cannot find out whether they are good for Bolton."

The bid could see a new bus and rail interchange near Bolton railway station and an 11-mile bus corridor direct to Manchester.

Eight of the region's 10 councils, including Bolton, last month voted in favour of lodging the bid.