CONGESTION charging is likely to become a really hot local issue in the next year or so.

Greater Manchester local authorities, including Bolton, are bidding for £3 billion of government cash to fund public transport improvements, which would include a new transport interchange near Trinity Street train station and an 11-mile bus corridor linking the town to Manchester.

The idea is that £2 billion of this would be repaid by charging motorists up to £5 a day to drive into Manchester city centre at peak times.

Nobody is suggesting at this stage that the scheme should operate in Bolton, but some of those campaigning against it have their suspicions.

When the Government responds to this bid, Bolton Council plans to consult with local businesses and members of the public before making a decision. It then plans to hold a public vote.

As I said recently, I have grave doubts about the use of referendums when we elect politicians to make decisions for us.

At least the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors on Bolton Council had the sense to reject the Conservative motion calling for a public poll locally at the same time as the next council elections on Thursday, May 1, this year.

If we must have a referendum in the town it is surely sensible to organise it when all the facts are known.

Hopefully, these will include proper details of how the interchange scheme would work.

The idea seems to be to transfer the Moor Lane bus station so that bus and rail services are more closely linked.

Taken on its own, that seems to be a perfectly good plan, especially if town centre bus routes can be organised so that older people, in particular, can continue to be dropped off near the Ashburner Street Market.

But so far, I have not seen any discussion of what might happen to the Moor Lane site if all this goes through.

I would like to see it transformed into a free car park, with space allocated for coaches bringing visitors from around the North-west and elsewhere.

After all, the revamped Market Hall, along with other commercial developments in the pipeline, are designed to attract people from near and far.

At the moment, anybody asked if they were in favour of congestion charging would be likely to say "no".

However, it is more complicated than that and it is up to the politicians to present the issues clearly, before any final decisions are taken.

I find it difficult to criticise them when sincere attempts are being made to do something about the problems caused by the numbers of vehicles using our roads, which are increasingly not fit for purpose.