A LEADING Conservative MP visited Bolton to lend his support to local party members in their campaign against congestion charging.

Former Bury MP Alistair Burt, the shadow minister of state for communities, added his voice to calls for more investment in public transport in the borough on a visit to Bolton train station.

Anger at overcrowding on trains between Bolton and Manchester was heightened last month when 10 trains a day were axed by TransPennine Express Mr Burt, who is now MP for Bedfordshire North-east, said services ought to be improved drastically before the debate on the congestion charge proposed for roads into Manchester could begin.

Proceeds from the levy would help pay off a loan which will fund around two-thirds of a £2 billion investment in public transport under a bid to the Government by councils in Greater Manchester.

Mr Burt was joined by local Conservative group leader, Cllr John Walsh, and the prospective parliamentary candidates for Bolton West and Bolton North-east, Susan Williams and Deborah Dunleavy respectively.

He said: "The Government has a determination to get people off the roads and is willing the ends but not the means.

"It is a national concern that the infastructure increases we need to meet the demand created by things like the congestion charge are not going to be met.

"The Government is being very vague about how it will deal with this."

Bolton would get a new transport interchange at Trinity Street, an 11-mile bus corridor to Manchester and more carriages on trains under the £3 billion bid to the Government.

Trafford Council leader Mrs Williams, whose authority refused to back the bid, said she did not believe that would be enough to cope with demand caused by a congestion charge.

But Bolton West MP and transport minister, Ruth Kelly, who she will attempt to unseat at the next General Election, said: "Labour is currently spending around £88m a week on the railways and last summer I announced £10 billion for measures to tackle overcrowding, including 1,300 new carriages, that's nearly 100,000 new seats.

"The Manchester area is a priority for extra capacity which should see between 40 and 70 more carriages at peak times on suburban routes as well as extra carriages for intercity services.

"Turning around the railways takes time and money, the Labour Government has invested heavily in both and we will see further improvements in the coming months and years."