THE controversial 'toll tax' system earmarked for Greater Manchester came a step closer this week, when it received backing from the Government.

Ministers have agreed to provide massive investment for public transport improvements in the conurbation, providing congestion charging is introduced.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly outlined her support for the proposed two-ring scheme, which would charge up to £5 at peak times from 2013.

it would be combined with £2.8 billion-plus of improvements for trams, buses and trains. This would be financed by a Government grant of £1.5billion, £1.2 of local funding and other funds.

Improvements earmarked for Trafford include redevelopment of Altrincham Interchange, Metrolink extensions to Manchester Airport, Trafford Park and the Trafford Centre, a new interchange at White City, upgrades for Hale and Flixton train stations and better bus services.

Trafford Council, along with Bury and Stockport councils, has previously come out against the scheme, while Bolton has promised to hold a local referendum.

A three month public consultation exercise will get underway next month, before the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) decides whether to approve the scheme. At least seven of the 10 local authorities would need to back it for it to go ahead.

The leader of Trafford council, Cllr Susan Williams, hit out at the scheme - but called on everyone to take part in the consultation: "Trafford Conservatives will always listen to and engage with our local residents and we encourage other authorities to do the same.

"This congestion charge is deeply unpopular and will hit families and motorists hard, at a time when the cost of living is increasing and fuel and grocery prices are going up."

She added: "You don't grow an economy by taxing people more. The Manchester zone is significantly bigger than the London scheme and would represent a dangerous move for the future prosperity of the region."

Cllr Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, asked people to listen to the arguments before reaching a judgement. He told Messenger:: "I would ask for Trafford to look at the detail, take an active part in the consultation and come to a judgement at the end of the consultation - not at the beginning.

"I am confident it will happen - it is such a fantastic deal for Manchester. For every £1 we generate locally, we will get £1.25 from central Government.

"This will give us a world class public transport system. If we reject this we will get nothing, and rather than our economy continuing to grow, it will slow down."