A report for the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has said that congestion charging needs to be introduced if Britain's busiest roads are not to grind to a standstill.
The study, Transport Pricing and Investment in England suggests following the example of London's congestion charge which has seen a 16% fall in traffic.
Drivers travelling at peak times and using busy roads would pay higher charges with the money raised being used to improve other means of transport.
In return they could see a reduction in motoring taxes.
Should road charging be extended? Would it encourage you to make more use of public transport?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
Good idea, bad timing. You need solid public transport infrastructure for this scheme to work. London has such an infrastructure, most of the rest of the UK does not. It's time for the government to heavily invest in public transport and slowly coax people off the roads by providing good economical service, not by overcharging those who use the roads.
It's time for the government to heavily invest in public transport
Chris Clifford, Switzerland
Chris Clifford, Switzerland
More carrot and less stick.
Why not handle the problem from a different perspective and give tax breaks to people who live within say 2 miles from where they work? It may not be practical for central London, but the rest of the country could certainly benefit.
Amarjit Dhugga, England
Yes, congestion charges probably should be extended. However, people are sceptical and negative for a good reason. They know that the government will just jump on the opportunity to squeeze more money out of the motorist, rather than introducing a proper congestion charging system.
Paul Sealey, England
Can someone please tell me why we as commuters need to pay more towards the improvement of our roads and transport system? Is it not correct that we pay road tax for just this purpose? Do we not pay a huge amount of tax on our fuel? Do we not pay heavily in tax when we purchase the vehicle in the first place? Shouldn't the emphasis be on the government to put to good use the money we already raise in taxes?
At what point does an expanding congestion charge zone become just another motoring tax? If everyone in an area has to pay, it will no longer have a deterrent value. It becomes another regular tax and congestion will continue. If we want to stop cars entering a certain area, then ban them completely and improve dedicated public transport links in that area.
If we want to stop cars entering a certain area, then ban them completely
It has been said that: 'Expanding roads to stop congestion, is like loosening one's belt to stop obesity!' The proposed introduction of private tolls will enable the affluent to travel faster and 'free of traffic'!
Solution would be increasing rail lines by dedicating the two centre lanes on existing motorways, for very high speed electric trains between cities. But do we really need to move goods and people around as much as we do? Perhaps it's time to produce many items locally for local consumption.
David J. Weston, Scotland
By all means implement road congestion charges - after the railways have been taken back into public ownership, to be run for the good of the travelling public rather than for the benefit of board-members and shareholders.
What happened to sustainable transport? We cannot say (or dictate these days!!) to the poor countries to change over to public transport when we in the rich nations cannot sort out public transport.
Azim. , UK
One must be very short-sighted to count the London congestion charging scheme as a success.
Businesses in central London have lost custom, the area covered by the charge was less congested than the surrounding area even before the charge was introduced and it has made not one jot of difference to the overall travelling times in and around London.
You can only count it a success by taking a very narrow view in that it helps MPs to get from their central London flats to the House of Commons about a minute faster.
It has made not one jot of difference to the overall travelling times in and around London
Brian W, UK
Let me get this right...there are no school busses in the UK? I can't even begin to imagine the gridlock in the US (beyond what we have now) if everyone was driving their kids to school.
Metro NYC USA
They can start the charging when the majority of the general public start having some manners when travelling. My car was recently broken into so I have to take my 2yr old son to nursery by tube. People watch me carrying him, jump onto the carriage quickly to get a seat and then look away like they can't see me struggling to hold him, my bags and hold on. My son even shouts 'Up, Up', but still they pretend they can't hear. Since people have no common manners, I'll stick to driving.
Lisa, London, UK
NO, No, NO! Congestion charging is already causing congestion on the A205, South Circular with motorists avoiding the zone. If charging spread further, the mass of circulating cars on the outskirts would double and triple in size. Also, people would be less inclined to live near the capital and property prises would fall. But I guess this is all part of the BIG plan.
I have a long term illness, so a much improved bus service near my home in Highbury makes a huge difference to my life -less miserable exhausting waits at bus stops +those pre-paid tickets mean I am able to use buses a lot more. Don't stop. Please!
Rosy Freudenberg, UK
I moved to within walking distance of my job to try and be environmentally friendly and everything. Six months later I got made redundant. I now do an orbital commute on the M57, 15 minutes drive. The Public Transport alternative is about 30 minutes into the town centre and 50 minutes out at a different angle. I considered moving closer again. But I'm about to be made redundant again! Given today's "flexible" job market requirements, it's no wonder people need cars!
Stuart, Liverpool, UK
Congestion charging has to be seen as a means to reduce pollution and improve congestion, not simply a way to increase revenue for the government. The monies raised have to be put into new public transport schemes to help provide realistic alternatives, and funding must be put in up front to prove the govt's integrity in wanting to achieve these aims. Without this road charging will fail, both in delivering better roads and in avoiding increasing costs to motorists.
The monies raised have to be put into new public transport schemes
Why doesn't everyone just car share? You can split the fuel costs/congestion charges between up to 5 of you (making the journey cheaper for all), you reduce congestion, and you don't have to use public transport! I'm sure if most people did this, the costs of any congestion charge to all would be negligible!
Presumably everyone here who is in favour of congestion charging lives in London, where public transport is relatively OK. Outside of London where public transport is generally pitiful, it is unlikely that a congestion charging scheme would actually reduce congestion, instead acting as a captive revenue source for government (central/local) which can then be wasted on funding for public transport routes that few people use. What about people who choose to live in the countryside (where a convenient, viable public transport system currently does not exist) but have to commute into town for work. Why should they be penalised for not wanting to live in a city?
I'm afraid that on tiny island of 60 million people the only alternative to congestion charging is gridlock. There is simply no space left to build the endless amount of roads that would satisfy the selfish motoring lobby and this would not solve the problem even if it were possible. Asking motorists to approve of very reasonable speed and traffic reduction measures is rather like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. Sadly, I think it is going to take something like Gridlock before people exam their attitudes to how they use their cars and think of the others who also have to make use of the road.
The only alternative to congestion charging is gridlock
London needs congestion charging - and I speak as a London driver. It should be charging based on congestion, varying by time and day of week. Then people will learn to stagger their hours and the congestion will disappear.
Mike Feilding, UK
I love travelling on buses, because they are more reliable than trains and give you time on your hands for reading. Keep the smelly sweaty drivers in their cars and off the buses. Otherwise they'll just moan because there's no air-conditioning or vanity mirrors. No congestion charge, please.
Jay Raspin, UK
I have lived in Luton for 2 years. I am now moving out as it takes so long to get down to London on the M1. My job is road based and public transport would not allow me to reach the sites that I work at on a daily basis. I agree that a congestion charge would probably put off the school run drivers, and that is one the main cause of some of the problems we see every day. I love to drive to work on a half term holiday. So yes I support it if it makes my journey as an essential road based worker easier.
I support it if it makes my journey as an essential road based worker easier
Chris, Luton, UK
It's just another way of this government contributing to our decreasing standard of living. Sorry to be politically incorrect, but shouldn't they be targeting mothers driving their children a mile or two to school at peak rush-hour? What about the walking bus schemes, and school buses like they have in America? They seem to work really well, they would increase jobs at the plants manufacturing the buses, and kids would get fitter using the 'walking bus'. In the meantime those of us who have to use the roads in peak rush-hour because our jobs don't allow us to do otherwise, can travel without being stuck in a continual traffic jam because of all the cars with one child being transported to school.
Does the government think that we travel at peak times because we enjoy it? It is business and the economy that dictates working hours and it is the individual that gets punished for trying to remain financially dependant. Why do we not see more incentives given to flexible companies rather than disincentives for those individuals trying to earn a living!
Many of the cars on the road during rush hour have only one occupant - the driver. At least some of those drivers could be encouraged to use motorcycles, which cause less congestion and make less pollution, due to their smaller engines.
Cost-effective public transport will never be able to meet the demands of those in remote areas. Face it.
Some of those drivers could be encouraged to use motorcycles
Fuel duty was increased year on year to cut car usage and improve the environment. As this hasn't worked why would another tax on motorists ?
Iain Lewis, England
Now, let me get this straight. The government (ITG & Transport Minister) say we must have congestion charging because our roads are too full. Meantime, the government (the Post Office) says it's going to dump its trains and put all the mail on lorries - hundreds or thousands to them - to replace the mail trains. Meantime, the government (Strategic Rail Authority) is cutting train service and seriously thinking about closing many of the branch lines around Cornwall and other non-urban areas because they're not profit making centres, thus putting hundreds of more cars onto our roads. Isn't it good that the government has this all thought out?
All these comments were made by the motoring classes in London before congestion charge was brought in. The charge has been a massive success - public transport has coped and the air is cleaner. I agree the capital has much better public transport but you can't improve bus performance without getting the cars off the road.
Allan Tucker, UK
No no no. How can so-called transport experts get it all so wrong? They keep missing the point. We take to our cars because the alternative is too dangerous, too unreliable and too uncomfortable. We thus cannot undertake the activity for which we are travelling with any degree of predictable success. Charge away - it will not get us out of our cars until the Government provides us with an alternative. Stop charging us, and start charging the train companies for every single train that is late, every carriage that is cancelled, every driver who fails to turn up to work, every bus that drives straight past a queue of travellers signalling for it to stop, etc. Talk about screwed up priorities! Try undoing the horse and taking it round to the front of the cart - the difference will be wonderful!
We take to our cars because the alternative is too dangerous, too unreliable and too uncomfortable
I certainly agree that something needs to be done to redress the balance between private and public transport. For too long, especially during the Thatcher years, the road lobby held sway, and no investment at all was put into public transport. The result is that, as demonstrated by many comments here, most people have no choice about how they travel: they have to use a car. I, for one, would dearly love to have a proper choice between public and private transport, without the decision coming down to "I'll travel by rail and just put up with the inconvenience and cost". If road congestion charging helps to redress the balance, then I am all for it.
David Hazel, UK
Where roads are free at the point of use any road network will find it difficult to meet demand. Like any other consumer product or service, unit price should vary as the demand-supply balance changes. But since movement from A to B is a necessity and until there are equally convenient and cheap alternatives, road charging will amount to just another tax. The problem is that government policy puts the horse before the cart - i.e there needs to be alternatives in place first before people will opt to leave their cars at home rather than waiting for demand that will never come until better public transport services are provided.
Paul Sedgwick, UK
Why not extend the congestion charge and price everyone off the roads onto an inadequate rail network? Whilst no driver would disagree with the thought that Britain's roads are congested, they would like to see viable alternatives in place before jumping from their cars onto alternative modes of transport. This isn't just about reliability either, where rail companies are thrashing business commuters into financial ruin with brutally high fares, there is no option than to stick with four wheels and the sight of red taillights for miles ahead. For a government with a supposed integrated transport policy, the only integration seems to be the consistent line of nonsense it spiels out.
Mitchell Hawes, UK
It is amazing the difference when schools are on holidays. Most of my peer group (30s) and before made our own way to school, keeping fit, giving our parents a break and negating the necessity for numerous cars blocking the roads. I understand parent's fears for their children, but I don't think that suddenly over the last few years there has been an explosion of paedophiles etc to be afraid of. I think that schemes such as groups walking or riding to school would help to alleviate fears (which I think are over-hyped by the media). Unless we want a nation that is lazier and even more over overweight then we should leave our cars behind, or at least share them more.
The strategic rail authority have just stopped the regular Thames Trains service running from Bristol to Oxford in order to free up the line. These trains were always very busy. People now have to use a fewer number of non direct packed-out trains or drive on packed-out roads instead. Consider this fact when anti-road campaigners tell you to use public transport!!
Steve Tinsley, UK
During my recent time at school, I commuted by train every day, and have more than once had to wait for a train delayed by two hours, or sometimes with only one carriage, which for the 100 or so people on Worcester station was not big enough to accommodate us. Whilst people in the London area might complain about delays and overcrowding on the tube, this is as nothing to the state of public transport around the rest of the country, not to mention how much cheaper it is in London. Before anyone introduces congestion charges, which seem on the face of it to be a reasonable idea, the government absolutely must improve public transport nationwide so that it could cope with the influx of people that a move such as this would undoubtedly bring.
Congestion charges in Birmingham wouldn't get people out of their cars. Public transport in the Midlands is a disgrace and at the moment it's constantly gridlocked with Travel West Midland buses. A better kind of Metro system would improve things, but there's just no room. There's only one line anyway!
Public transport in the Midlands is a disgrace
John Cooper, Birmingham
I live and work in Glasgow, my flat and office are only about 5 miles apart. However I am forced to drive to work because taking public transport takes me at least 1 hour and 2 buses on a good day and as much as 90 mins on a bad day compared with 15 mins in the car. Until the public transport system is upgraded I will have no choice but to use my own car and unless the road charging scheme is ridiculously expensive it won't deter me.
Chris Smith, UK
What a good idea!
The roads can be for the rich people and the oiks can move about in buses, trains, cattle trucks... I wonder how the politicians will travel?
I live in Newport, South Wales where many people already believe there is a hidden agenda to introduce congestion charging. Bus lanes have been put in on all major routes into the city. This has resulted in traffic coming to a near standstill during peak hours. Traffic systems that worked perfectly well before the bus lanes are now chaotic. The traffic planners have refused to budge even when the evidence shows their ineptitude. The congestion charge is just around the corner. Just another tax which will be as unpopular as the poll tax.
The congestion charge is just around the corner
Peter Hill, Wales
When is the government going to start congestion-charging air passengers? The airways are just about as congested as the roads, but nobody ever thinks about this. Aviation fuel is duty free too, quite different from petrol.
My partner had to get to Heathrow airport this morning which has supposedly excellent transport links. We only live about 40 miles from Heathrow and he left home at 7am for a 9.05am check-in. The train was late, his coach was late and the terminal link bus was horrible delayed. The result? He missed his flight. I rely on the train to get to work every day and it is so impossibly crowded, it simply couldn't hold more passengers if congestion charging was brought in. I expect more than just one foot square to stand in on a delayed train for £3,500 a year.
Yes. Motorists should be made to pay as much as possible for the privilege of polluting the air for the rest of us. Driving is a luxury, not a necessity. Use your legs and help improve the health of the nation!
Use your legs and help improve the health of the nation!
As most of us can't walk to our places of work perhaps 'Tim, UK' could give us all a lift on his high horse?
Never mind congestion charging, it's about time we had congestion compensation paid by the government to drivers when we are delayed by Britain's pathetically inadequate road network.
Chris Ward, UK
I live just outside Cardiff and cannot find a suitable job in the area. As a result, I have been forced to commute to Bristol on a daily basis. I have no option but to take my car as public transport does not offer a reasonable alternative. I already pay car tax, inflated rates of tax on petrol, tolls on the Severn Crossing and ridiculous rates for parking. Now the government suggests another tax be levied for using roads I have already paid to use by payment of my car tax!
Congestion charging is good in theory, and certainly may be applied to those entering cities. However the needs of those of us who live in rural areas need to be considered.
As a manager in the transport industry I guarantee you that if they target lorries as well we'll pass the cost onto the consumer, i.e. you. We'll have no choice. This will nudge up the cost of everything you buy, from the fuel you use to get around to the groceries you eat to the stationary your office works with to the clothes you buy you and your family. It won't do inflation any favours at all.
The trains are being reduced and priced to fleece corporate travellers. Bus services are slow and unreliable. Would the Government please explain the alternatives to the car? Do they think that we travel at certain times because we enjoy traffic jams? If only they had re-nationalised the trains as they promised.
Do they think that we travel at certain times because we enjoy traffic jams?
John C, Bath, England
No problem with congestion charging so long as duty is scrapped on fuel. I car share to work and I feel it's time that other drivers did the same. It saves a lot of money.
Absolutely, the fall in traffic in London just shows what could happen throughout the country. Extending road charging can only benefit the environment and people's sanity!
CJ Patterson, Scotland
If we are charged to use the roads, and rail prices increase, surely people are going to be left with no choice but to fly Easyjet to work. It would probably be cheaper by the time the prices on the rail and the roads have been increased.
The point about congestion charging appears to be revenue. The London scheme is apparently considered something of a failure. It has succeeded in discouraging so many motorists from entering the "zone", it's failing to meet revenue targets. Yet most of those people not driving in are now fare paying passengers.
So increased fare paying passengers on the public network is not a success. Why is this?
The politicians have achieved their stated aim and aren't crowing about it. Could it be that they are less than open and honest about their objectives?
Could it be that they are less than open and honest about their objectives?
In addition to the fair points already made (lack of public transport alternatives etc), what exactly is the purpose of the road tax (and indeed the 80 percent tax on petrol) if not to cover the cost of road transport? I personally have found that jams on the M25 etc have improved over the last couple of years by the introduction of more efficient management schemes. It would appear we are being softened up for what inevitably is another revenue raising scheme and nothing to do with fair government or a more efficient transport system.
Noel Hennessy, UK
Toll roads should be introduced on all major motorways and the proceeds used to improve the road network, instead of having to rely on petrol taxes which invariably find their way into the Treasury's slush fund as opposed to transport.
My wife has just had a year of cancer treatment. The hospital is in the nearest big city. It was bad enough losing her income for a year, but having to pay a congestion charge every time we went to the hospital would have crippled us. Public transport would have involved the use of three buses, which is not easy when you can hardly walk.
Our local hospital is even worse - they moved out of the town centre to a greenfield site, then imposed parking charges on their car parks. Even calling in for a sample bottle or to collect drugs involves a minimum £1 charge.
John Rouse, England
How much more will I have to pay to get where I need to go, without having to wait in the dark, pouring rain for a bus that may or may not turn up?
I would maybe use public transport if it was cheaper, cleaner and safer...but as a female, I don't feel safe travelling alone, and my husband to be certainly doesn't like the idea.
I would maybe use public transport if it was cheaper, cleaner and safer
I fully support these plans for road charging. If you use any other form of transport, you pay more at peak times to use the service. Why should roads be any different? This is the only way to effectively tackle congestion.
James Smith, England
Roads were designed for the speedy transport of people from one place to another, but the new breed of traffic planners (anti-car Guardian readers most of them)see them as political tools for the raising of even more money from the driver. Is £45 Billion per year not enough? Get off our backs, put the roads back as they were and let the traffic flow!
Andrew Howlett, England
No way, we pay way too much to use our cars at the moment, it's just another means to take money off you. The money will never end up being used to improve roads/public transport, it'll just disappear into the governments coffers and the motorist will be left to get on with it.
Sharon Turnbull, England
Increasing the number of cities using congestion charges is an excellent idea. Where someone's work takes them to a city centre, there is little excuse (except for disabled persons) not to use public transport. Ideally, the money raised from the charges could be used to update some of the worn-out buses and trains currently in use, reduce fares, and increase frequency.
An excellent idea
Andy, Nottingham, UK
If taxpayers were not regularly financing pointless wars and administrative incompetence, there would be more than sufficient cash to improve roads and public transport.
C. Hunter, England
I just got back from Munich and was astounded by the clean, efficient, cheap, punctual public transport. It is very unreasonable to introduce congestion charges when our public transport is the laughing stock of Europe.
Sam Miller, England
It might have escaped these experts' notice but motorists already pay far more in taxation than the cost of maintaining the roads.
If local authorities made more of an effort to keep traffic flowing rather than waste money on road 'furniture' traffic might flow a little better.
Driver education would also help to improve traffic flow. I lose count everyday of the number of people driving in the wrong lane holding up traffic.
M. Thomas, UK
Again, those of us who have no choice but to travel by car will be the worst hit. When will the government understand? Many of us have found it impossible to find work close to home or on a public transport route. In order to work we have to travel distances where public transport is not available.
The obsession with creating out of town shops, offices and industrial units has lead to the dramatic increase in car usage as no alternative way of getting there has been provided.
When will the government understand?
The whole infrastructure of this country has been built around the car, what with out of town shopping centres and supermarkets. Also people have to commute to get to work because they can't afford to live near work. A car is essential, public transport is a joke. It is grossly unfair to try and force people off the roads with more charges when there is no alternative. It's time we built more roads!
Err ... no .. How exactly is the country supposed to function? London has an option to use public transport, most of the rest of the country don't! I am sure there are better solutions to the rush hour, school buses for example.
Helen, UK, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
I doubt that public transport could cope with a rise in passenger numbers.
The government needs to examine the whole transport SYSTEM instead of merely moving the problem from road congestion to overcrowded buses and trains.