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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Most drivers 'would pay tolls'
Motorway
22m will be made available to improve roads
Most drivers would be prepared to pay congestion tolls if that meant fewer traffic jams, a new report suggests.

The researchers found attitudes towards the tolls had changed - but drivers would also expect tax on fuel to be cut and big road improvements as a result.

Prime minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair: Said report was "well argued"

The report - entitled Motoring Towards 2050 - has been prepared by the RAC and endorsed by the prime minister.

It warned that road charging would be needed on 10% of the UK's road network to prevent traffic problems worsening.

The only other way to improve congestion would be a massive increase in road building, it added.

The reports findings were put to 500 motorists in a survey by NOP Automotive.

It showed:

  • 76% would find road tolls acceptable if there were equivalent reductions in petrol prices

  • 73% would find tolls acceptable if there were an equivalent reduction in road tax disc fees

  • 71% find tolls acceptable as a package of better roads, public transport and traffic management

    Motoring groups as a whole are against congestion charging, but the RAC said its report's findings suggest "that in the future charging will be required".

    Speaking on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Transport minister John Spellar said that the government was not currently planning to extend the use of tolls.

    He said in its 10-year plan the government was looking at the "considerable underinvestment" in the road network.


    Without charging we would see increased congestion

    Sir Christopher Foster, RAC

    The RAC report predicts that the demand for car travel will double by 2031.

    As a result the effect cars have on the environment would rise, with noise levels from vehicles rising unless new improvements are made to vehicles.

    In a foreword to the report Tony Blair said although it did not represent government policy it was a "a well-argued and interesting contribution to the debate".

    RAC Foundation chairman Sir Christopher Foster said the fact that a motoring organisation opted for road charging could surprise many people.

    But he said: "Our report shows that the alternatives are worse."

    "Without charging we would see increased congestion and possibly unpalatable and probably ineffective efforts to curb car ownership."

    'Nervousness'

    An independent steering committee helped produce the report with the RAC Foundation.

    Environmental organisation Transport 2000 welcomed the report's conclusions on road tolls.

    Director Stephen Joseph said: "Even motoring organisations now believe road-charging should happen.

    "The nervousness shown by the government over it is unfounded. But the RAC is heading in the wrong direction if it thinks that road-building could lead us out of congestion.

    "It would create more traffic and in the long term do nothing to clear traffic jams.

    "Road-charging is the way forward, together with steady improvements in public transport. Trains, trams and buses can deliver us from traffic hell."

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
    "Motorists will pay to use it"
    See also:

    30 Jan 02 | England
    1.68bn road plan unveiled
    31 Jul 98 | UK Politics
    Road scheme details in full
    03 Aug 00 | UK
    M-way congestion targeted
    29 Dec 01 | England
    Motorway re-opens after pile-ups
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