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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 10:24 GMT
Pay as you drive?
Nick Watson
Nick Watson
The Politics Show
West Midlands

Toll road
Pay as you go motoring: For or against?

Half the people surveyed in an opinion poll on behalf of the BBC Politics Show in the Midlands/North West are opposed to road pricing - even if all the money raised is spent on public transport.

The ICM poll, which surveyed 826 people in the West Midlands and the North West regions, shows 50% opposed to the introduction of any road pricing system with almost 44% in favour.

Government interest

The results will make particularly interesting reading for the Government because the survey was conducted solely in the regions around Birmingham and Manchester - which have been identified as cities where pilot road pricing schemes might be carried out in the future.

There are some crumbs of comfort for road pricing supporters here as the poll seems to contradict the view that the public is hostile to the principle of road pricing following a petition on the Downing Street website against charging, which was signed by more than 2m people.

They would argue that 44% support is relatively high given the publicity surrounding that petition and that with more debate people could be won round to the idea.

However the survey also proves that at this stage there is still a majority for whom any sort of road pricing scheme is a non-starter even with the caveat about improvements to things like bus, tram and train systems.

The survey also reveals there is slightly stronger support for road pricing in the North West, where 45% of respondents said they were in favour, compared to 42% in the West Midlands.

Respondents were also asked to express a preference from one of three systems of road pricing.

When it comes to preferences for road pricing schemes the results were also interesting. The favoured option was a pay-per-mile scheme similar to the French motorway system (which was backed by 32%).

Next most popular, was over and above inflation increases in car and fuel tax - which was backed by 25% with 21% supporting a London-style congestion charge (5% didn¿t support either option and 17% were don't knows)

Shrewsbury is also on a list of 10 towns and cities where a pilot road-pricing scheme could be introduced after a bid by Shropshire County Council to Government's Transport Innovation Fund.

Its unique geography makes it almost the ideal location.

Nestling in a loop of the river Severn, access to the town is limited to three road bridges - one of which is already a toll bridge - and a road from the North which runs past the town's railway station.

Rat run?

It is reckoned that as much as 25% of the traffic through Shrewsbury is using the town as a cut-through so targeting some of them looks like an attractive option.

Nothing has been firmed up yet but one proposed scheme would involve putting cameras on the town's English Bridge, Welsh Bridge and Whitchurch Road to read number plates and charge motorists £1 to drive through the town.

The money raised would then be used to fund an expansion of the park and ride scheme, completing the town's ring road and building a new parkway railway station to the East of the town.

Tory view

Shrewsbury's MP Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative, has taken his cue from the national campaign against road pricing and has launched his own on-line petition against the plans.

"There are serious issues regarding traffic levels and pollution in Shrewsbury and other British towns, but it is wrong to think that congestion charging is the answer," he said.

"Congestion charging will hit tourism as visitors choose other towns in preference to Shrewsbury.

"I also worry that the poorest residents will be the most affected by these plans and in particular those who live outside the town centre but travel into the town to work will suffer a tax on work."

Email response

However, as the Prime Minister pointed out in his email response to anti road pricing campaigners the issue of congestion will not just vanish.

"It's bad for business because it disrupts the delivery of goods and services," said the PM's missive.

"It affects people's quality of life. And it is bad for the environment.

"That is why tackling congestion is a key priority for any Government."

Nettle grasped?

And with congestion predicted to increase by 25% by 2015 it is a political nettle that needs to be grasped sooner rather than later.

Exactly how that will be done though remains to be seen.

Our Transport Correspondent Peter Plisner has been analysing the results of the poll and getting reaction.

Reporter Julie Peacock has been to Shrewsbury to find out what people there think.

So what's it like on the set of the Politics Show..? Sonia Deol takes us there...

The Politics Show

Join the Politics Show team... Sunday 11 March 2007 at 11:30 GMT on BBC One.

If you have an issue you would like us to follow up then please write to Nick Watson, BBC Politics Show Midlands, The Mailbox, Birmingham, B1 1RF or email nicholas.watson@bbc.co.uk


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