CONGESTION charge plans for Greater Manchester should be shelved unless there's a massive upgrade of public transport in the Leigh area.

MP Andy Burnham said he believed congestion charging was a non-starter unless there is major investment in public transport services across his constituency.

A 2005 survey of public transport in Greater Manchester carried out by the House of Commons Library - at the request of the Leigh MP - found that Leigh was worst served by public transport than any other area in the county.

Mr Burnham said: "At present, the only public transport option for thousands of my constituents is the bus. But services into Manchester are poor and many commuters find they simply can't rely on them. They have no option but to use their car."

The Leigh MP has written to the GMPTA to say that there must be major investment in the Leigh area if all residents are to have a real public transport alternative.

He has called for: The Leigh Guided Busway to be up and running before any charges are introduced A new railway station at Golborne with services to Manchester More frequent rail services to Manchester from Atherton with extra carriages Improvements to all existing bus services Mr Burnham said: "I am calling on the GMPTA. to put together a bid to the government's Transport Infrastructure Fund to pay for all of these improvements. Without them, I could not accept any charging scheme as it would unfairly penalise my constituents.

"My constituents in Leigh, Lowton and Golborne do not get as good public transport services as people elsewhere in Greater Manchester. Our area must be prioritised for any new investment if the plans to introduce congestion charging are to proceed. There is a basic principle at stake here. People can only be charged for using their car if there are real alternatives to get to work."