CONGESTION charges in Man- chester could cause chaos at railway stations in Frodsham and Helsby.
Commuters parking their cars at the stations for free and travelling by train to Manchester are already leaving car parks overflowing, damaging grass banks and blocking roads and driveways.
Fears are growing that if the congestion charge is implemented then commuters will turn to trains, pushing car parking to breaking point.
Helsby parish councillor Frank Thomas, a member of the North Cheshire Rail Users Group, said: “There obviously will be a problem. It will be cheaper for people to leave their cars at Frodsham or Helsby station and get the train than drive to Manchester and pay a congestion charge and then for parking too.
“At Helsby we already have a problem with parking. If the congestion charge goes ahead there will be more problems.
“I have seen more than 50 cars parking in the car park, parking on the grass, on the road opposite and up Station Avenue. Other cars park in the top car park, which is a shoppers car park. People are leaving their car in a relatively safe place and aren’t paying a penny.”
The £2.8billion scheme in Manchester, which includes expanding the tram network, adding more bus routes and more park & rides for commuters, was approved by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and a public consultation will be held later this month.
Maggie Abbett of Arriva Trains Wales, which runs the Chester- Manchester route, said: “We have seen a growth of about 19% over the last few months and we will be closely monitoring rail user numbers to see what resources may be needed.”
Cheshire county councillor Andrew Needham, executive member for environment, economy, rural affairs and waste, said: “Greater Manchester authorities have been at pains to convince ministers and others that they are part of a city region which extends into Warrington and North East Cheshire.
“It is clear that the proposals will have a significant impact on these areas and yet recent consultation was aimed at Greater Manchester stakeholders only.”
Under the proposals, drivers would be charged £2 for entering an outer cordon around the M60, encircling the city, then a further £1 to get into the centre at peak times. An extra £1 would be charged when drivers leave each of the zones.