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Motorists 'must pay for road use'

Friday, December 1, 2006

Motorists should be asked to pay to drive on the nation's road network, a report commissioned by the government has recommended.

Former British Airways chief Sir Rod Eddington has examined options for modernising the UK transport network.

He has reported that road tolls could bring £28bn a year of benefits to bus and rail users.

With road charging, drivers would pay more to use roads when they were busy or more congested.

If road charging was introduced, the government would be able to examine the option of whether it could raise enough revenue to replace fuel duty and the car tax disc.


Road charges could cut congestion by half, Sir Rod said in the report commissioned by Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Grand projects like high-speed rail links were less important than using existing networks better, he added.

Smaller projects, including an expansion of the UK cycle network, received strong backing.

But Sir Rod warned the new technology would be hard to implement.

"Road pricing on this scale is new and at this stage has unknown implementation costs," Sir Rod said in the report.

"There are very significant risks and uncertainties involved in delivering a pricing policy, particularly around the technology needed for its delivery."

The government announced the transport study in 2005 as part of an effort to examine the long-term impact of transport decisions on the UK economy.

Sir Rod has examined the possibilities for road pricing, road building, rail and airport investment, as well as the planning system.

His report identifies three strategic transport priorities - congested and growing city catchments, "inter-urban" corridors and important international gateways showing signs of congestion and unreliability.

Such gateways include Heathrow Airport where 28% of flights are delayed by more than 15 minutes - some of the worst delays in the EU.

The report concludes that the potential benefits of charging motorists for using roads will outweigh the costs of the scheme.

Road charges will put some people off driving entirely, cut congestion and carbon emissions and could raise up to £16bn a year in payments, Sir Rod says.

Sir Rod's report also says:

The UK has a greater proportion of its population connected to the strategic road and rail networks than European competitors
Management of transport is very inefficient and disjointed in UK - especially for buses
Road pricing should only be rolled out after proper testing on pilot schemes
Policy should be focused on improving the performance of existing transport networks in those places that are important for the UK's economic success
Many of the recommendations are in line with government thinking, but have now received the backing of a respected businessman.

The prospect of road pricing was given a cool welcome by some.

The Transport 2000 lobby group said that, for road pricing to work, alternatives to driving must be improved.

Shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling said a national road pricing scheme for every road was not "realistically achievable in the near future".

Conservative plan

Sir Rod's report warns that how we get around Britain will be vital for future economic success.

The government has already indicated it will press ahead with trial road-pricing schemes across England - amid fears congestion could rise by 25% by 2015 in big towns and cities.

The draft Road Transport Bill, announced in the Queen's Speech, gives councils more freedom to bring in their own schemes in busy areas.

The Conservatives have released their own strategy, Getting Around: Britain's Great Frustration, calling for greener cars on the roads and major long-term projects.

They have also not ruled out road pricing but say they would build new roads and have a more integrated transport policy.




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