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Friday, November 19, 1999 Published at 23:25 GMT

Should motorists face city tolls?

The government has announced proposals for motorists to be charged for entering city centres and parking at work. Is this the right way to tackle congestion?

Ordinary people have tasted the freedom provided by cars and as such they are not going to give them up for an expensive, inconvenient form of transport which can never match the private car. Dr. S, UK No one wants environmentally destructive bypasses, asthma, acid rain, light pollution and noise - this is the government's first real stab at gaining real improvement for us all, it's a bitter pill, but in our heart of hearts, we know it has to be swallowed.Jean, Leeds UK Your Reaction:

By making the motorist pay for access into city centres will once again benefit the wealthy. The average person works very hard to enjoy some freedom of their own car. We don't want to have to travel with the local drunk, smelly tramp or loud mobile phone user in a cramped slow bus or train. Control the size and power of cars and reduce the exhaust gasses will be more beneficial to all.
Jeff Eames, England

The last time I returned to the UK it took me an entire day on public transport (and cost four times the petrol money) to make an equivalent 3 hour car journey. Until problems like this are fixed toll charges aren't going to make much difference to people's transport patterns.
Ian, USA

Drivers should not face a city driving fee due to the fact that we are already obscenely overcharged for our fuel. Buses are slow, and trains, well they speak for themselves as of late. So the only option left to the public will soon be to walk, which obviously for long distances is impractical. I think 2 jags Prescott needs to encourage car use instead of damning us.
Stuart Kendall, Wales

I would be the first to use public transport if there were such a thing. The truth is that the transport system in this country, especially Outer London is a joke. If I were to try and use it to get to work (Hillingdon to Greenford, a mere six miles) I would have to take two buses and a train each way. This would also involve a lot of walking, of which I am not capable of due to arthritis in my feet.
I have tried it (when the car was 'in dock') and it took over 1 hour 20 minutes each way. (not bad for 6 miles) Put the Transport infrastructure in place FIRST, then there will be an incentive to leave the car at home.
Richard Williams, UK

I can understand drivers feeling fed up but I can't see why they don't realise a tax on parking at work is in their interests. It deters those who have easy alternatives to get to work leaving the road clearer for those that have to drive.
VAT does nothing to deter drivers and penalises those who have to use their cars without a deterrent effect. We accept VAT rises resignedly but in effect we are paying as much increase per annum for no effect.
It is not just a question of switching to electric cars. Drivers are getting more and more frustrated because of the increase in jams. What happens if nothing is done, increase in travel to work time (more petrol cost), more road rage, more stress, more accidents, more fat children and fat camps, more difficult to provide public transport as everyone refuses to use buses even for short journeys.
FR, England

UK petrol-tax levels mean that £8.50 of every £10 you spend goes straight to the government, now they're planning to tax you when you drive *and* when you park.
The phrase "Rip-off Britain" has been used by this government against the car-manufacturers: if there's anyone it *should* apply to it's this government!
Pete Morgan-Lucas, UK

I support the idea of developing alternatives, but it is vital that no politician or campaigner is under any illusion as to just how much has to be done. I cycle 26 miles a day, and normally enjoy it, but when I'm unfit to cycle there is no alternative. Hardly anyone works 9 to 5 anymore, yet I don't even have access to a bus service that let's me do that. A very good point has been made about the flexibility and mobility of the labour market, it's not possible to move house every time you make a change in jobs. Whilst I would recommend walking and cycling to anyone, the roads are full of selfish and dangerous drivers, and there are limits on how far you can realistically travel.
Paul, Devon

Perhaps a good start would be to provide all ministers with bicycles rather than their ministerial cars and escorts?
Peter Odinga, UK

It is about time that people realise that irresponsible car using is causing environmental and health damage way beyond the current costs they incur in owning a car. It might hurt the pocket, but that is infinitely preferable to laying waste the planet. Isn't it?
Richard Swain, UK

You cannot penalise people for using the car until there is a viable alternative. At the moment - even in central London (where I live and work) there is not. This is due to lack of investment and poor management. Motorists would accept extra charges if they really felt the journey they were making was entirely unnecessary, and they could see the money being invested directly in a reliable efficient public transport system that really could replace the car. However, that has to be put in place FIRST!
Alex S, UK

I see from the majority of the comments that most are blaming the car, for our pollution problems. Perhaps this is because dear old Johnny 2 Jags always refers to cars in his transport 'policies'(?). We rarely hear mention of DIESEL powered buses, trains with DIESEL engines, HGV's with DIESEL engines. You will not find too much mentioned about aircraft exhaust emissions either. Whilst aircraft are designed to fly a lot of their life is spent running their engines on the ground, 42 years experience tells me this!
Alan, UK

I live in Loughborough, Leicestershire but work on the outer edge of Leicester, 15 miles from home. Leicester introduced a trial toll system on the A47 from the west of the city. One family would have spent £100 per week during one particular week of the trial. This was made up of two journeys to work, each parent working at different times, and two journeys between home and school. The public transport is non-existent at the time required. They had one car and all the travel was essential. The Leicester scheme increased the toll as the pollution level increased, from £1-00 up to £10-00 per journey. The main hospital covering Leicestershire is in the city centre, and so anyone having to go to the hospital would have to pay, as would spectators to both Leicester City and Leicester Tigers.
For me going to work, which takes 25 minutes by car, and not touching the city centre, if I went by public transport would take 2 hours each way. It would be almost quicker walking. I have tried car sharing, but you are too dependent on each person starting and finishing at the same times etc. Also you have to be able to get on with them reasonably well if you are going to spend an hour a day in close company. Why don't they increase the road tax for second and subsequent cars? e.g. £300 for the second car, £700 for the third car, £1000 for the fourth and £1500 for the fifth, this would apply to all cars registered at the same address. If the minimum age for driving was increased to 21 then this would also remove a large number of cars from the road, since it seems that most 17 to 21 year olds seem to see a car as a necessity.
John Collis, UK

Yes, but first improve public transport. For many people living in rural areas, there is no choice. First improve the public transport system and then tax the motorist. In Munich, the public transport system is wonderfully cheap, safe and convenient. That is the best way to entice motorists away from their cars.
Jasmine, Oxford, England

What a cheek! My employer already pays a fortune in petrol taxes to send me all over the country providing SERVICES to people and now it seems he will be obliged to spend even more! Does this Government want to force my employer out of business and cause me to be unemployed? I shall certainly never vote for Tony and his cronies ever again!
Mark Verth, UK

Unfair on rural residents; divisive town from country, rich from poor. Imagine trying to do the Christmas shopping, in one go, accumulating bulky parcels ... and being elderly or trailing small children. A scheme so flawed will be defied, and by the time its unworkability has killed it off there will have been a great deal of loss of temper with unpleasant consequences. The Government would concentrate on underwriting development of electric (or hydrogen-powered?) cars.
Julia Taylor, England

This further example of the attack on the motor car is only remotely acceptable if road tax is abolished. However, that is unlikely. The attack on the car continues unabated so long as the myth of 'global warming' is perpetuated by the Green/Red lobby and exploited to the full by rapacious politicians and bureaucrats.
David J.K. Carr, England

Sorry to laugh but is this the same country that wants to be a major force in the world e-commerce? It just does not add up. How can you expect to attract the people that will give you that success when all you do is tax, tax, tax. What's next tax discs for push bikes? You don't solve traffic problems by blaming the drivers all the time. Innovative planning and investment are the key. We all expect this to come from the 'bright young things' we voted for.
K Jackson, USA ex UK

Motorists already pay this government far too much money. The government should remember that motorists are voters too and a general election is coming soon. If a city starts to charge for entry then motorists will go elsewhere. Buses are a joke, who wants to sit in a cramped unheated filthy bus in January, and pay too much for being in a cattle truck? Let johnny two jags try it.
John McAulay, UK

I have moved from a rural area into a town. The 3 members of the household work within walking or cycling distance from work. Many comments so far have mentioned public transport as an alternative, however safe cycle lanes and locking areas could also be provided for those who live relatively close to work. However, transport infrastructure does not mean we can stop using the car. We must shop (carry bags), visit relatives, attend medical appointments or perhaps entertain ourselves away from our house. We will use our transport for this. There can never be such a flexible alternative. And how will extra taxes be applied? Will commercial vehicles be exempt? If not, all goods will go up in price as a result. If commercial vehicles are exempt, then perhaps we should all buy smelly old vans that kick out choking diesel fumes. The key to all these problems is BALANCE. If old polluting vehicles were outlawed; if we had clean, safe and reliable alternative to the car (trains, trams/buses, cycle lanes); and sensible incentives or disincentives (e.g. tolls in cities & tax free low-polluting vehicles); we may get somewhere. No one has said who will support the unemployed from the car manufacturing and car support industries...
John Ryves, England

Yes - In many cities in the UK a car is not a necessity. I live and work in Edinburgh and use public transport, a bicycle and my own two feet to get around. Between us, my wife and I walk our children to play group, school, judo and Beavers. We do the weekly shopping by foot and using public transport. I walk to work or take my bike or the bus. My wife takes the bus to work. We hire a car when we have to get to otherwise inaccessible places. A car is not essential to the high quality city life we lead. Unfortunately the car has a large impact on our quality of life. It affects users and non-users in many ways. City tolls will not be able to compensate us or our children for the polluted air we breath, the difficulties and danger we face crossing the road on the trip to school or the loss of freedom for our children to play in the street, but if directed to traffic calming, better pedestrian and cycle facilities and better public transport they may start to make a change for the better.
Alister Hamilton, Scotland

The UK labour market is in a position of relative strength because of the mobility of the workforce, in the most part facilitated by car ownership. If our workforce is made to use public transport we will lose this strength, and lose jobs to mainland Europe where cars and petrol incidentally are much cheaper. This result will suit "Two Jags" because then Britain's unemployed will then be forced to use busses as its all they will be able to afford.
Paul, England

Whatever their theoretical merits, tolls for driving into city centres would involve serious practical difficulties. It is usually assumed that there would be a form of electronic charging using transponders fitted in cars. But this would only be practical for regular commuters, and it would be unreasonable and time-consuming to fine tourists, occasional visitors, and drivers of hire cars, meaning that in practice it would be difficult to achieve without physical tollgates. Would drivers be expected to pay for the transponders themselves, thus imposing yet another additional cost? And would systems vary between different cities, meaning you might have to buy numerous boxes? Would charges apply to goods vehicles or only private cars? Would they apply to taxis? Would they apply to the disabled? There would be endless scope for argument about exemptions. Also, many vehicle movements are business journeys rather than pure commuting, which employers would have to pay for and would thus add to business costs. The typical big city consists of a busy and prosperous core closely surrounded by a run-down "inner city". Unless the tolling boundary was very closely drawn around the core, it would be a major deterrent to development in some of the country's most deprived areas. In view of the practical difficulties, I strongly suspect that no local council, particularly outside London, will ever dare introduce congestion charging. The cynical might even think that Tony Blair knows this very well, and has included it in the Transport Bill as a sop to the green lobby, in the certain knowledge that, if he leaves implementation to the discretion of councils, they will in reality never happen.
Peter, UK

I think that the toll idea is a good one in theory, but it could be done better. If there is 1 person in a car, then make them pay a toll, as they could be car sharing. For two people, make it half the toll, and for four people make it free. This would encourage car sharing, which is a better alternative to having to rely on the public transport system. In many areas, public transport is abysmal, either in not going where you want it to go, or not running late enough, or being unreliable. If I were to commute to London by train every day I would have to get up at 5.00am each day, then catch a bus, then the train to get in by 9.00am. By car it would take 1 hour, and cost a lot less (money wise, not stress-wise :-). Of course, how are they going to charge us for the tolls? Are they going to have tollbooths (i.e., creating more congestion as everybody queues up), or some kind of auto-charging as you drive though? There is no easy solution. Could be quite unworkable in the end.
Graham, UK

It would be better to increase income tax, which is the fairest form of taxation, and use the extra money to provide a vastly better and vastly cheaper, public transport system. It's obvious that lots of people have no realistic alternative at the moment to driving into town centres, and they'll deeply resent being made to pay still more. It's equally obvious that travelling in this country is becoming an absolute nightmare and we can't just let things go on as they are. I am depressed by the silliness of some of the comments people have sent in.
Karen Jones, UK

I think that the issue is not the generation of additional tax earnings for local government, but rather attempting to reduce contamination levels in the inner cities and reducing travel time etc. The problem with introducing a special tax for " consumers " is that such measures will always be criticised as measures that do not affect the wealthier sectors of society, the phrase "poll tax on wheels " is already circulating. I believe however that there are fairer ways to limit access to inner cities such as restrictions that are used in Santiago Chile where contamination levels are amongst the worst in the world which are based on the last number of a licence plate. Two numbers are not allowed into the city centre in times of high contamination levels, these of course change every day and are advised in advance. Though in Chile this system only includes vehicles without catalytic converters I'm sure it could be adapted to all vehicles and would certainly reduce traffic
Mark Winstanley, Chile

I recently read an article, which recommended that runners/joggers should not go out in cities after 7:00 am because the levels of pollution from traffic - particulates, ozone etc. What a terrible state to have reached. Why motorists (including myself) think we can use our cars whenever and however we choose is beyond me. The use of cars particularly in cities is harmful, anti-social and infringes the freedom of those who choose not to drive as well as those who do. Taxing congestion is a good and necessary idea.
John Forsythe, UK

Let's think who will be affected by tolls - the poorer end of society. Poor people don't need more bills to pay. I think the gap between rich and poor is too large. I work in The City, London, I walk to work on occasions it takes one hour but I risk my life because there are not always traffic lights telling the pedestrian what is going on, you can be unsure when the cars are going to move again, you just have to make a mad dash for it - this puts me off walking more regularly.
Jayne Hough, UK

If the government were doing this for the environment then they would force car manufacturers to produce environmentally friendly cars, like the deadline the California government have set.

There is obviously a national traffic problem, it can be seen every day. The government is trying to get rid of the problem rather than tackle it. If they spent the income they received from taxes on road travel on improving the road networks, the current problem may not be such large issue. In the mean time people are going to suffer particularly small-businesses who increasingly make up a large proportion of the economy. In my own opinion, I would rather cut my own spending of my disposable income than give up my own car. As I have a small family and public transport is not suitable. I do not feel I am the only one with this view and the economy can only suffer as a result. The government hasn't taken into consideration the disabled and those with families etc. In my own opinion I feel that the government are trying to make the motorist a money-spinner.
Jeffrey Cushway, UK

With the widespread development of the internet, hopefully will come a day when a vast majority of the workforce will be able to work from home cutting the number of car journeys by half. Then we can perhaps have a sensible transport policy based on car / trains and trams. At the moment, I am afraid there is little alternative to the constant pounding that motorists receive from some "green" London pressure groups and politicians.
Rob, UK

NO and a big No at that... We have ripped off long enough in this country, Road Tax keeps going up year after year as is Petrol, where has all this money gone? I own a car, but I am sensible I drive it only at weekends or if I am going out at night, and I have to live with using the shabby service of the DLR to get to the city. Leave Motorists alone. We have been ripped off long enough.

I guess something, however unpalatable, has to be done to discourage increasing gridlock and pollution. If this government were serious about challenging pollution however, they should impose VAT on aviation fuel, as air travel is the most environmentally destructive form of transport there is.
Grant, UK

How slow does the average London traffic speed have to go before we realise that we can't all have a car to drive whenever we want? How much pollution do we have to breathe before it becomes obvious that cars are seriously damaging our environment?
Dave Green, UK

I think the Government has gone about this totally the wrong way. Firstly, they should start to divert more of the taxation received from petrol/road tax to fund improvements to Public Transport. As mentioned previously I use the Public Transport service in Munich regularly. Its cheap (the key thing), fast, regular and reliable. I don't need to hire a Car. If we were to invest into our infrastructure you could then justify taxing those who are then unwilling to use Public Transport. Before that point this kind of taxation is vindictive and unjust. Don't forget our trains/tubes are already packed, and we don't need to be reminded of the consequences this can have.
Paul, UK

Yes. The environment is as fundamental to human existence as the food chain it relies upon. The motor car has to be tamed. If Jersey can do it why can't England? The CI's have had to restrict the growth of their motor vehicle population for 50 years or more. There comes a point when we do have to swallow the bitter pill to 'rough it a bit' on public transport. I say we should restrict the number of vehicles on our roads by arbitrary means. That means a certain number of vehicles allowed to exist at any one time. One possible solution is to restrict the number of vehicles to the same existing number of households. No need for tolls and all that 'unfair to motorists philosophy'. That seems fair to me! What do others think?
Jason Meek, UK

John Prescott should be congratulated on his courage to take unpopular but necessary decisions in the long-term interests of everyone. Increasing levels of traffic are just not a sustainable option. Of course private and company cars will continue to be needed for many purposes but their use could be reduced for commuting to work, shopping and taking children to school, if better public transport systems were put in place. Cash raised from taxing the motorist in congested areas must be directly used for improving public transport. Britain has a long way to go to catch up many European countries who have a positive attitude towards integrated systems of transport. I hope John Prescott gets the support he needs to bring this about.
Ronald Newton, England

Motorists should face city tolls. If and only if the journey they are undertaking is not essential and their is a financially and practical alternative to that journey.
Graeme Oxley, England

I have just returned from Singapore where tolling for motorways and busy roads in the centre of the city is normal. Each car has a monitor which automatically charges road users when they pass into a toll area and the rates reflect the time of day etc. As a motorist living in Zone 1/2 I am quite prepared to pay these charges because they will result in less traffic, a cleaner environment and more investment in our public transport. The sooner the better!
Nicola, UK

This Labour government is trying to un-invent the car. Unfortunately, for the policy to work it needs to un-invent the patterns of working, shopping and recreation that have evolved since the last war against Germany. William Hague should pledge to cut the duty on motor spirits by 50% and thus guarantee winning the next general election.
Chris Klein, England

Laura Potter, it may be handy living in zone 2 working 9-5 but what if your working day starts before any buses or trains run and sometimes finishes well after they do?? I use my bike whenever I can, but using a car keeps the wind and rain out my face in the depths of winter. Have a thought for people who really do rely on cars.
Ian, England

Why do motorists feel that public transport must be as fast as their car, and as flexible before they will start to use it? People who don't have a car (either because they can't afford it or because they don't want to add to congestion) don't have a choice. If people just took the bus or train in to work, say, once a week, the services might start to improve to cope with the higher demand, ticket prices would fall, services would be more frequent etc, and bingo - you have a decent system.
Motorists need to stop feeling that they can carry on sitting in their traffic jams until the government gives them some incentive to change. And I don't think that motorists should be charged to go into city centres because that would lead to more out-of-town developments, and make everyone MORE dependent on their cars.
J. Adams, UK

Perhaps the system can be introduced as a rolling plan. The toll is introduced in a town/city that already has an excellent, reasonably priced public transport system (the only one I know of is London). The revenue can be ringfenced to bring up the standard of public transport in another area of the country. When that is up to scratch then charges are introduced there, and so on.
Andrew J. Chisholm, UK

The Government and lefty councils are doing all they can to worsen congestion - granting planning permission for offices and out-of-town shopping on condition there are insufficient parking spaces, re-phasing traffic lights, closing streets and extending bus lanes. So now they want to tax us for the privilege of sitting in their traffic jams?
I tell you, if this goes through there will be civil disobedience on a scale never before seen in the UK. I for one will burn my tax disc on the steps of Number Ten. The social engineers should get real: we have busy lives and cars are the quickest, most comfortable route from A to B and if they started to engineer the roads to help rather than hinder us, congestion could easily be reduced.
Mark Bishop, United Kingdom

Yet another form of taxation!! When will people realise that a car is no longer a luxury. It is an essential mode of transportation.
Roy Chapman, Germany/UK

Many of the comments received so far complain about the standard of public transport and that journeys are quicker by car. There are alternative methods of travelling (particularly in London), which are quicker, cheaper, healthier and greener. Try walking or riding a bike. There is no excuse for not doing either if you live within a few miles of your place of work. I decided to start cycling to work over a year ago. This is an 18-mile round trip that takes about 40 minutes each way. Before I started commuting in this way, I had not so much as looked at a bike in twenty years. If I can do it, then almost anybody can. All that is needed is a change in attitude, a little self-organisation and a shower at each end of the journey.
Simon Garwood, England

If the British Government stopped spending money on armaments and stupid things like the Millennium Dome (for which they are going to charge a colossal admittance charge) then they could start organising the country. People could drive on safe roads in environmentally safe cars and also get medical help when they needed it, without having to enter a list for years on end!!! Thank God I don't live there anymore. It costs a fortune to do anything - why do you think so many of us leave? Grow up politicians!!!
Larraine Wilde, Cyprus

Anybody who says there is an alternative to the car should be invited to get on the tube during a football match or late at night (of course, tubes do not run really late at night) - it's not only highly uncomfortable but a life threatening experience. Higher taxes will only increase social unrest and our move to a brave new world: money will buy freedom while no money will force the unlucky to use a stinking, unreliable, unhealthy and highly unpractical public transport system, doubling/tripling journey times with no chance for change within the next decade.
M. V. Bock, England

The trouble with the current policies is that it is always the people who live in rural areas who foot the bill. Where I live there is no public transport, therefore I either cycle 20 miles each way for work or take the car. In Norfolk a car is a necessity not a luxury. Perhaps the government wants us all to move into the cities.
K Burton, Norfolk

Certainly not, we pay road tax, high car tax and the most expensive petrol costs on the planet. Added to a very poor public transport system with the highest costs in Europe, I can't believe the government wants to penalise us still further. Get a grip Mr Blair, I voted for you, but stop putting so much weight on the green lobby, who use OUR roads to travel to demonstration to demonstration.
A Pearce, UK

How much more tax do this government want us to pay? Surely there must be another way to cut the growing congestion apart from taxing people off the roads. There's tax on petrol, insurance and just about everything else you care to mention. Will they re-introduce the window tax? Or tax us on the amount of air we breathe? This government said that there would be no new taxes. Yet another lie.....
Adam Solts, UK

As a first time Labour voter in the last election it is safe to say I will never be one again. It is an unfair tactic to bully motorists off the road and I hope it does for this government what pole tax did to Margaret Thatcher. The fact is that public transport is unreliable and in the case of the trains totally overpriced and the government cannot and should not force people to use it until a definite improvement can be SEEN to have been made.
We are used to the promises that improvements will happen but it never does. I myself have used the train service to work on occasion. It costs me three times what it does to drive and has frequently made me late for work due to late trains, cancellations & then when the train is good enough to turn up it's so packed out I have seen cases where people can't physically get on the train.
Richard Gamble, England

If New? Labour could be trusted to spend the extra income on Public Transport then maybe. But if their past record is anything to go by, they will simply use it as another tax on freedom/motoring. As a motorist I feel I'm already subsidising lots of other people already - why is it always us?
Bob Taylor, England

I am for making better use of public transport and city tolls are a fair way of charging those who drive in cars alone to work everyday. Other measures might be inclined to "tax" all motorists living in city limits or worse still all motorists.
I live in Manchester, own a car but use public transport wherever possible. Of course it is not always the most convenient method of transport but increasing the number of bus lanes and pedestrian zones should make public transport more reliable and therefore allow operators to open up more routes and make it more accessible to those off the current network. Good luck to the government on this one, but I fear they are in for a rough ride.
Philip Bunn, UK

The toll and city parking ideas are good ones, providing they are used to reduce congestion and not as another tax for Mr Brown. That been the case if they are implemented they should only be done in congested areas where good public transport exists, and should also be linked with massive cuts in road and petrol tax.
Matt, UK

In most major urban areas in the UK, the alternative to private transport is poor, to say the least. Also, why pay car tax to the Government if they are going to penalise motorists even further. The car tax should be cut drastically if people are forced out of their cars. Similarly, the Government should set an example and John Prescott should get on his bike and lose a few pounds. He would then realise what the world is really like outside the comfort of his 2 Jaguars.
Sarah Castree-Antonicelli, Italy

These Robin-Hood philosophies should stop. Pseudo-socialism leads nowhere. I am a car and bike rider and use what is appropriate. If I have to drive 100 kms for work, I think it might be a bit difficult to go by bike. Why should I (rather my company which provides the car) have to pay extra?
Raja Lala, Netherlands/India

I think its a good idea, provided that the money generated goes into updating the rail infrastructure, and subsidising public transport. There is no justification in introducing all these tolls if the revenue goes into cutting income tax or so forth before the next election. If all the transport taxes were channelled back into transport, we'd have a transport system that would be efficient and affordable.
Alex Banks, International transport student, Cardiff University, Wales

Tricky one - but let's not confuse the issues - if the government/country is really interested in reducing pollution then let's have electric cars - much better in cities where range and speed are not such an issue - It's also hard to understand the move to tax city visits while at the same time encouraging the rebirth of city centres!
Bob, UK

Walking to school each day, I have to wait, on average 6 minutes breathing in fumes at the roadside, for a break in the traffic on a number of roads busy with people driving into Leeds city centre. In one academic year, this is 24 hours of my life wasted - a not insignificant amount of time, considering the fact that I am not benefiting from these journeys.
Even worse, each of these roads has an excellent bus service along it which, with a bit of investment, could easily remove all those cars. John Prescott is right to move towards road pricing in cities - the pedestrian, cyclist and bus user have had their time wasted, tax revenue spent and lives put in danger by the relentless rule of the car for too long. Now it's payback time...are we in time to save society, I wonder?
Jo Kibble, UK

If you want to see the effect of trying to dissuade people from using their cars in a city, tolls or otherwise, try the awful mess that is Oxford. A 15-mile journey used to take 25 minutes and I was a frequent Saturday shopper. Now, I can take an hour on the bus...but I travel badly so this is not an option. Or use the Park and Ride and the shuttle bus...and fill in an insurance claim form after my car has been stolen or vandalised. I could take the train, after all the trains on the main line pass close to my home town...but the application for a station halt has been blocked yet again. I have not shopped in Oxford since May. When an alternative is not feasible, the further taxation of motorists is adding insult to injury.
Tracy Gooding, England

I am in two minds about this. Having seen pedestrianized/car free city centres they are certainly cleaner, safer and more pleasant. I think the government is still failing on the fundamental issue of the terrible public transport system in the country. Until they address this issue, and create an INTEGRATED transport network, tolls are not going to dissuade car owners. It is as cheap to drive as to take public transport, and a bus can never compete with the comfort, speed and convenience of a car.
Sian, UK

Once again, it is an example of how isolated government ministers are in London. It is fine for those who live in a city which has the Underground that goes all the way out to the suburbs, buses that run through the night, etc, etc, etc.. err, how many other cities in the UK possess this??
Neil Lees, UK

Public transport is slow, expensive, unreliable and suffers from declining safety standards. British motorists already pay the highest fuel tax in the world. Most people drive to work in the morning because there is no realistic alternative. If people did leave their cars, the public transport network would be utterly unable to cope with the extra passengers. Finally, I doubt if a congestion tax would ever go into funding public transport. It would simply become yet another tax on people who have to work for a living.
Chris Whitrow, UK

Public Transport! I was under the impression that outside of London it was private companies in it for the money running both the Bus and Train routes. Are we saying we should given them the cash?
Keith, UK

I find it incredible that governments having torn apart what ever infrastructure we once had such as railways and bus services over the last 30 years are now charging us, the tax payer to re-build them.
Pete Sullivan, UK

I am forced to use a car to travel across Manchester, Simply because the public transport does not cover the areas that I want to go to after 6pm. Even when there is a bus it can take up to 3 hours to make a journey which in a car takes 45mins.
As a motorist and someone who has attempted to use public transport I feel that public transport is expensive, unreliable an impractical. At the moment the motorist faces the most expensive fuel in Europe and the draconian measures towards speeding. If the motorist is forced to pay even more for the privilege of using my car then I and many like myself will forced to give up work as commuting will become too expensive.
Alec Bickerton, United Kingdom

Why is the government proposing that motorists pay city tolls in the first place? Car drivers will not be discouraged by toll charges from driving into cities if there is no alternative to public transport.
Here in Munich, the population of 1.3 million has invested in a public transport system that is fast, reliable, clean and cheap, and so most people are happy to use it to get around. In fact it is totally feasible to live here without owning a car.
The local system is also properly policed and very safe to use, unlike the London underground for example. This is perhaps one reason why many people in the UK feel obliged to use their car, and the ensuing gridlocks that take place especially with the 'School run' in the mornings.
Alex Coaker, Germany

With all of the externalities taken into account, the price of petrol in Britain is still far too low; by some estimates, it covers less than half of the resulting costs to society. Anything which helps to address this hidden subsidisation of motoring is a change for the better.
Over here in the States, the national transport policy seems to be the notion of gradually turning the country into one gigantic road. Of course, petrol prices are criminally low (leading to severe and excessive pollution), driving round and round in circles is considered `good' for economic growth and the decrepit public transport system is even worse than in Britain! Even so, I've managed to get by without a car (but, as elsewhere, not without the foul air and constant noise motorists provide).
Tom, USA

The government is only interested in making money. Motorists will regulate themselves - if the roads are too congested they won't travel or will find alternative means. What we really need is better traffic planning and environmentally-friendly cars.
David Mellor, UK

Isn't it about time that government ministers starting looking a little further past their noses. A great number of people in this country live and work in areas where public transport is not an option. Why should I pay even more money just because I have to drive to work, I have no other option.
The more they raise motoring taxes, the less people can afford to change their cars, therefore there are more and more older cars that kick out far more pollution than newer more efficient cars. It's about time the British motorists stood up and made themselves heard.
Martin Mace, England

No, motorists should not be charged for effectively driving to work unless there is an acceptable method of public transport available. I live in a village outside of my local city (York) and to get to wok would (13 miles away) take me 2 hours via public transport.
Tony, England

I personally believe that able bodied motorists should be charged and taxed double what they are already paying. I have used public transport for the last 7 years and it has never constricted my freedom to go where or when I want to. If you choose the car over the bus you MUST pay extra taxes. This should not be the case for the disabled or those travelling with 4-5 people in each vehicle; these people should be allowed some concession.
Giles Wallwork, UK

No way should we taxed again for using our cars, we already pay road tax, huge taxes on petrol and VAT on petrol and on the tax on petrol. I live 20 miles from where I work, it takes me 30 minutes by car, if I go by public transport it takes an hour and a half each way and the trains only run every hour.
We don't all live on a bus route or round the corner from a tube station, so the car is vital. Basically if I can't use my car, it costs me an extra two hours travelling time per day and is twice as much money. I live in a depressed area and there are no jobs in my field closer to home so I have no choice.
Andy Dungay, Scotland

As usual with the UK government when dealing with motorists the only reaction seems to be to get out the big stick of financial penalties. If public transport met people's requirements then they WOULD use it. However, public transport in this country is infrequent, expensive, and unreliable. Even as a large well built man, I often don't feel safe.
If the government is serious about getting people out of their cars, it is about time they started to fund a realistic alternative which people want to use. Let's have a little bit of carrot instead of the big stick.
Dave Thompson, UK

Drivers should be willing to pay for the amount of driving they do. Those who drive more should pay more, and those who do very little driving should be charged accordingly. If the government was to introduce city tolls, then road tax should be abolished and drivers should pay according to how often they use their cars.

This debate is not about congestion or environmental issues its yet another stealth tax which motorists and the general public will all pay for either directly or indirectly.
Jim, England

I work for a company which provides a free bus service from the local Railway station to the out of town site. I would be delighted to use MY local railway station to travel to work, if the journey didn't take 2 hours. As it happens the journey by car takes 40 minutes so there's no contest. As a result I think motorists cannot be charged for travelling to work in town centres until public transport services improve. If motorists are charged it will further increase house prices, which is why people don't live near where they work anyway!
Adam Crisp, UK

Tolls may unfortunately be inevitable but it will be the town centres that suffer along with the motorist. This is just another crafty way for the government to get us to use the internet as people will start to use the internet more to do their shopping from their arm chair. Park and rides are a joke where I live as I have to drive about 5 miles to get to one and the buses are a bit like British Rail overpriced and late.
Rachel Goodwin, England

For myself and many others who have had to find work as sub-contractors , often with work only lasting months . We need our cars to travel to and from work as the public transport system is unable to give us a service that copes with our demands. We are already penalised for using a mode of transport which generates immense revenues for the government with no payback, and a government that cannot even lead by example often choosing expensive travel methods over the public transport system. It is no wonder security and these ministers safety becomes an issue.
David Goodband, UK

Charging for using our roads has to be explored. For too long congestion has been accepted as the price we pay for excessive road usage. Charging should make those, including myself who use our car for short trips in Town Centre think again.
Charging must be seen as only one element of a strategy to improve all transport. Any charges should be invested in public transport and that must include reducing the price to a competitive level and introducing some quality of service.
Neill Arnold, England

Road users are already taxed to oblivion, I don't see why they should be taxed any more, especially when public transport in Britain is frankly quite pathetic!
John, England

Who ever thought that raising the tax would stop people from using there own vehicle to get around. Must be the same person that said raising taxes on cigarettes would stop people from smoking. It was a stupid idea then, and still a stupid idea now. No, what we have here is another attempt by government to lighten the load in your back pocket! Gee, if this doesn't work. Your shoes might be next.
Keith B. Haynes, Las Vegas,U.S.A.

Why should motorists pay yet more tax? The cost of road tax keeps rising, the cost of petrol keeps on rising and VAT that is charged on cars and everything that we buy for them is another constant tax. Just where is this huge amount of revenue going? Certainly not on our crumbling road system and floundering public transport which is becoming an even greater embarrassment compared to other European countries. If I could see the benefits of paying these taxes then paying another city tax would sting just a little less.
Rob Compton, UK

I believe this could contribute to the solution, but only as a larger package of measures to encourage the use of public transport and the bicycle and discourage driving in urban areas. Another important measure would be a significant reduction in public transport costs, perhaps through the revenues such tolls bring in. Transport services must also be upgraded and measures taken to improve the safety of cyclists and protect their cycles from theft, such a common problem in urban areas throughout the world. Guarded cycle parks could be provided for a modest fee.
Maria Gatti, Qu_c - Canada

It could signal the end of towns/cities, with out of town shopping centres, internet banking shopping, don't visit my town often and will not be happy at being charged for the privilege
Steve Tricker, UK

I feel sorry for you guy's across the pond. We have toll roads that we pay to drive on here, but to pay a toll to drive in a city centre would be silly, but then again, we American's complain about our gas tax at the pump. Well, sure it is only $0.43 per gallon in Texas but we love our cars.
Richard Berglund, USA

Depending on how it was implemented, taxing workplace parking is likely to cause people to drive to work. I take the view that if I had to pay a yearly charge for the provision of a parking space then I'd want to use it as often as possible to get the best return on the money paid. With the carrot and stick approach to getting motorists out of cars, there seems to be far too much stick and virtually no sign of the carrot. It's impractical to get into my local shopping centre (Cambridge) by bus from where I live - even using a Park and Ride is pointless because the nearest is as close as the parking I use in the city and would result in it taking twice as long and costing a lot more, without the flexibility of the car (any time I want instead of every two hours if the bus company bothers to run the bus). Perhaps a system where I can summon a taxi and charge it to the local Bus Company if the bus hasn't arrived after a 15-minuite wait might make me more inclined to trust the local bus service in this area.
David Hough, UK

John Prescott should be sacked for he has failed miserably to produce any coherent policies that will provide an integrated transport system and a greener environment. Gordon Brown is mad to think that motorists will put up with paying large sums of money that simply end up in Treasury and Council coffers. On transport, the environment and the linkage with raising of revenue New Labour has been found wanting.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

Yes, time motorists faced up to the real cost of driving. The cost to buildings, roads and to people's health.
KJD, England

Motorists are taxed enough. If people want to sit in traffic jams let them get rid of road tax (which is a standing charge) I would not catch the bus because I would effectively be paying twice.
Mike Allen, England

Yes - if public transport is available and a good standard. I live in Central London now (zone 2) and getting around without a car is as simple as anything. I see people who live near me with cars, who struggle to park them and who crawl along my local roads and think "Why bother? There's a bus right behind you, and if you weren't there the bus could go faster".
However, I grew up in a semi-rural part of Surrey, and there public transport was non-existent. It was simply impossible to get around without a car - I had no social life until I got a driving licence. I think motorists SHOULD be charged for driving in obviously congested areas with ample public transport - like inner London. However, where there's less public transport, motorists should be treated more kindly. That is, until the government gets its posterior in gear and provides good, reliable transport, like London's bus system, in semi- and rural areas.
Laura Porter, UK

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