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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 16:56 GMT
Road pricing
Deborah McGurran
The Politics Show East

Traffic congestion
New road charges could be used to tackle traffic congestion

Under plans announced in the Queens Speech, the prospect of road pricing is looming larger on the motorist's horizon.

A draft road traffic Bill, to be published in 2007, will examine the scope for "pay as you drive" schemes.

Cambridge and Norwich are two of the areas earmarked for trials of road pricing by the end of 2009.

It is believed that the government is working towards having a national road pricing policy in place by around 2015.

Drivers could face
paying up to 1.34 a mile to drive on the busiest roads in rush-hour
installing a hi-tech 'black box' in their cars, tracked by satellite
congestion charging zones in more and more cities
more road tolls

East Anglian pilot funded

Councils will have the freedom to design road pricing schemes.

Cambridge and Norwich have been asked by the government to put together pilot schemes.

Earlier this month it was announced that Norwich has been given 250,000 by the government.

The figure amounts to half of the costs of the study looking at how to charge drivers to use the city's roads - with Norfolk council taxpayers having to find the rest.

Measures to be explored in the two-year study include a London-style congestion charge based on a cordon around the city, tolls on some roads and the possibility of a charge weighted against gas-guzzling vehicles with high emissions or discounts for greener cars.

Road pricing funded

Cambridgeshire county council received an additional 1m to develop their road pricing scheme.

It had already been given 385,000 from the Transport Innovation Fund to look at the feasibility of charging vehicles for entering the middle of the city in July 2005.

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander has now added another 1,055,000 to develop the plans.

In all 10 areas across the UK have now received 25.5m to develop local congestion charging schemes.

Close cooperation

The Government says it will work closely with Cambridgeshire and the other eight authorities through the Road Pricing Local Liaison Group to develop a consistent approach.

Advocates hope that if drivers had to pay up front for journeys they might begin to change their habits.

At present car costs, which range from breakdown cover to the wear on tyres, are more hidden than the price of a bus or train ticket.

On the other hand, road charging without alternatives can be seen as a blunt weapon.

Motorists may view it as simply another tax on drivers, more about raising revenue than helping with the environment or tackling congestion.

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