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News - 1 December 2006
A revenue of 28bn on the move ... or are they stationary?

Pay and Drive

Former British Airways chief Sir Rod Eddington has examined options for modernising the UK transport network and is expected to recommend that motorists should pay per mile to drive on the nation's road network.

Road tolls could generate £28bn a year which could be devoted to improved public transport but more importantly they could significantly reduce congestion because road charges will put some people off driving entirely.

As a recompense he suggests new projects such as expansion of key international gateways and internal transport in major cities.

However Sir Rod Eddington is likely to conclude that initiatives such as a high-speed rail link etc, are less important than using existing, smaller networks better such as the expansion of the UK cycle network.

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 and the resulting report examined a wide range of possibilities for road pricing, road building, rail and airport investment, as well as alterations to the planning system.

The report is likley to conclude that the potential benefits of charging motorists for using roads will outweigh the costs of the scheme.

Many of the recommendations are already in line with recent government thinking but the backing of a respected businessman will give them extra weight in the nation’s debating chambers.

Inevitably the prospect of road pricing was given a cool reception by some commentators. Stephen Joseph, of the Transport 2000, said "For road pricing to work it's going to have to be accompanied by a lot of other measures, in particular measures to improve alternatives to driving so that it isn't just seen as another tax.

"People should feel they have some choice about how they travel, rather than just having to pay more money to the government."

Shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling agreed with the plan in principle, but pointed out that a national road pricing scheme covering every road in the UK was not desirable "or realistically achievable in the near future".

The draft Road Transport Bill, announced in the Queen's Speech, gives councils more freedom to bring in their own schemes in busy areas but this carries with it the prospect of a city at the forefront of environmental endeavour putting itself at an economic disadvantage if it "goes it alone".

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. Their plan does not rule out road pricing but does include new roads and a more integrated transport policy.

Read related items on:
National policy
Transport 2000
Eddington, Rod
Grayling, Chris
Joseph, Stephen

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