Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Transport guru calls for 'congestion charges'
Congestion charges "fairer on rural motorists"
A key Labour transport advisor has called on the government to cut fuel and vehicle excise duties and introduce a national system of charging to use busy roads.
He told a BBC One Panorama programme to be screened on Monday night: "Some motorists in rural areas where there's little congestion, they're not contributing much towards pollution and are paying too much.
"Other motorists, who are driving in the peak (hours) and British cities, contributing greatly towards congestion, are not paying enough."
£20 road tax?
Prof Begg said he wanted a new framework to redistribute the burden of motoring costs.
Although he did not advocate abolishing fuel duty entirely, Prof Begg said the emphasis on raising prices at the pump to discourage car use should be reduced, as should the cost of a tax disc.
He said: "You start to look at vehicle licence duty and it might be that you only get people to pay an administrative cost there - it might only be £10 or £20 to register the car."
'Blue skies' thinking
But the proposals brought a sceptical response from motoring organisations. The RAC said the idea of widespread motorway and city centre toll charging was fanciful.
"However, it is right that the large scale increases in petrol duty are hitting people in rural areas unfairly."
They amount to an extra motoring tax without the public transport infrastructure in place to offer an alternative."
The AA agreed there was a need for a co-ordinated approach to reducing car use.
It said that swingeing charges on motorists were ineffective and unfair without the counterbalancing effects of massive investment in public transport.