A MASSIVE majority of Bolton residents are opposed to the congestion charge planned for Greater Manchester, an online poll by The Bolton News has revealed.

We published views of the town's three main political party leaders and asked readers which they most agreed with.

An overwhelming number placed a tick in the box next to Tory, Cllr John Walsh's name.

Cllr Walsh is vehemently opposed to the congestion charge, while his political rivals, council and Labour Group leader, Cliff Morris, and Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes, broadly back it.

The Bolton Conservative Group leader said last night: "I'm not surprised by the result but very pleased."

Cllr Walsh polled 82 per cent of the votes, with Cllr Morris receiving 13 per cent and Cllr Hayes getting five per cent.

We went onto the streets of Bolton to see what the public thinks in our special video

The congestion charge forms part of a £3 billion application for cash - known as the TIF bid - to improve Greater Manchester's public transport network. The cash will only be made available if a majority of people back the bid which includes the congestion charge.

As the closing day for votes - December 11 - draws closer, more details about how each borough could potentially benefit are emerging.

A high-speed bus service from Bolton to Manchester through Farnworth and Kearsley will feature tram-like articulated carriages and state-of-the-art bus shelters, according to TIF bid officials. Special bus lanes would be built to help commuters avoid congestion and bus stops fitted with CCTV and tannoys would keep travellers safe and informed.

Waiting times would be reduced by the introduction of integrated "Smartcard"

ticketing on bus services across Greater Manchester.

And Bolton has been promised a new town centre transport interchange and £3 million of improvements at Bromley Cross railway station.

Residents are now getting the chance to vote for real on the proposals as ballot papers are in the process of being mailed out.

By Friday, November 28, everyone who is eligible to vote should have received their papers, with the deadline for voting closing at 10pm on Thursday, December 11.

Once the ballot closes, Bolton Council, along with the other Greater Manchester authorities, will then have the final vote. Bolton Council has agreed to vote in line with its residents' verdict.

Here’s how the leaders of Bolton’s three main political parties will use their own vote and how you voted in our special online poll:

Councillor Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton’s Labour group and leader of Bolton Council:

YES “The fundamental reason why I am voting ‘yes’ is that I believe the benefits of the overall package for Bolton significantly outweigh the disadvantages.

I am obviously concerned that those who travel by car will have to pay once the improvements to public transport have been made and the congestion charge is introduced in 2013.

But I am reassured that many will not pay, including blue badge-holders, patients who regularly attend hospitals or specialist health facilities, motorcycles, taxis and emergency and recovery vehicles.

The reasons I will be voting ‘yes’ are: l there is no congestion charge for Bolton (this is something I could never support) l the majority of people in Bolton will never pay the charge but will see the benefits l only those who travel inside the M60 will pay anything at all and only at peak times on weekdays l we must do something radical to cut congestion in Greater Manchester because it harms our economy and environment l this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for £3billion of investment in public transport, half from the Government l there are big benefits for Bolton with a new £30 million interchange and improvements to bus and train services I urge everyone to study the proposals in detail and believe that most of you will agree that there is much for Bolton to gain from the proposals.”

Councillor John Walsh, leader of Bolton’s Conservative group:

NO “I will be voting ‘no’ and I want to explain a few of the reasons why you should also vote ‘no’ Despite denials by its supporters, congestion charges will hit everyone. Just getting to work in Manchester by car will cost over £1,000 a year more.

Businesses in Manchester and delivery companies will have to pass on their increased costs to all customers.

The expensive advertising campaign supporting congestion charging is wrong. Everyone will pay more either directly or indirectly.

All for what? The possibility of a few extra re-conditioned railway carriages — we are not even promised new ones — on some peak period trains, more bus lanes and a rebuilt bus station, not a transport interchange.

This will only be linked by a footbridge to the existing Trinity Street Station and possibly open just a few months earlier than previously planned.

Leaflets from Greater Manchester’s Labour-controlled councils supporting the bid show Bolton as a ‘possible future congestion charge zone’, so we have no guarantee that congestion charging will not be extended.

Motorists already pay excessive taxes for fuel, on road fund tax, insurance tax and like everyone else general taxes.

The congestion charge is just another stealth tax.

It is a bad deal for Bolton so putting Bolton first, I will be voting ‘no’.”

Councillor Roger Hayes, leader of Bolton’s Liberal Democrat group:

YES “It was Bolton Liberal Democrats who ensured that you got a vote.

We have a promise from the leader of the council that Bolton will follow the wishes of its voters as expressed in the referendum whatever the result and we will keep him to his word.

It is a difficult decision. On one hand we have extra tax on most motorists who go into Manchester at peak times.

On the other hand we have £3 billion improvements for public transport, and the promise of reduced congestion, less pollution and safeguarding of future jobs.

Even a £3 billion investment will not give us as good a public transport system as exists in many cities in Europe.

The proposed rail improvements do not go far enough. The measures to reduce ‘the school run’ congestion are too timid.

Of most concern, the Government has not given the powers needed to control and regulate the bus companies to ensure a guaranteed improvement in bus services and control over fares.

If the proposal is rejected, there is no ‘Plan B’. The investment will not come from any other source.

Mainly for that reason I will be voting ‘yes’ — it is important for the local environment, local jobs and most local people to have a better public transport system. There are others in my party whose views I respect who will be voting ‘no’, but everybody must make up their own mind.”

The Bolton News: How you voted for the three politicians