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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Road charging: Our test drivers
By Tom Symonds
BBC transport correspondent

Road charging is the government's radical proposal to cut congestion. A BBC experiment intends to find out what it would be like. Meet our test drivers.

KAREN CROSS - SCHOOL RUN MUM

Karen Cross drops off her 11-year-old daughter Vicky at school daily, just 10 minutes' drive from her home in Solihull - and sometimes takes three-year-old Nathan to nursery in the car.

She does not think it is an option for Vicky to walk as it is too far and it is a very busy road. However, she does give a lift to some of Vicky's classmates.

Karen Cross

On road charging she says: "In some ways I don't like the idea. At the back of my mind I think it would be just another way of getting more money out of motorists.

"But on the other hand I don't drive very far so it might benefit me if taxes are reduced for motorists who drive less."

She adds that the privacy issue would also worry her: "It would concern me that it was an extension of Big Brother, with the authorities knowing exactly where you are and when".

MARGARET WALSH - THE FLORIST

Margaret Walsh owns the Emilie Duclos florist in the Staffordshire market town of Uttoxeter.

She is worried that road charging could put her out of business: "I do love my work and I do love my shop. But we are only a small business and any more pressure the government puts on us, then we won't be able to survive."

Margaret Walsh

Neither is she in favour of weighting the charges to benefit people like herself who use country roads - at the expense of those who use busy roads in big cities at peak hours.

"I feel it would be unfair to anyone who has got a business in a big town or city. A small business person already has to pay enough taxes. You don't realise until you start one."

Margaret estimates that she travels up to 200 miles a day throughout Staffordshire and into Derbyshire.

"You really clock up the miles, especially as people often only give you a vague address and in the country people only have house names not streets. You can be driving round and around before you find a delivery address."

NICK WADDINGTON - THE COMMUTER

Nick Waddington is a partner with Knight Frank chartered surveyors.

He recently moved his family out of London for the "good life" in Worcestershire, so he already has experience of the congestion charge in the capital.

Nick Waddington

His daily commute by company car into Birmingham takes an hour. But it would take half an hour longer each way by public transport and would probably also involve taxi journeys to and from the station because of a lack of buses where he now lives.

He said: "I would definitely like the advantages of less congested journeys. But I can't dictate when clients want me to look round their buildings so I can't plan my journeys to make them cheaper."

He would be prepared to tolerate a slight invasion of his privacy in exchange for the benefits of quicker journeys and joked: "My wife might be glad to know where I am, too!"

STEVE COAPE-ARNOLD - WHITE VAN MAN

Some people might not have a good word to say for "white van man" in general.

But Steve Coape-Arnold appears to break the mould - with customers clamouring for him to deliver new kitchens or undertake home removals to anywhere in the UK.

Steve Coape-Arnold

He probably clocks up the highest and most unpredictable mileage of our four motorists, and he is concerned about the possible effects on his business of any charge on mileage.

"It's quite a competitive business and although we would all be in the same boat, it would be just another thing to worry about," he said.

"It would be nice to think that it would reduce traffic and I would get to places more easily, but I'm not sure that will happen."

The privacy issue also worries him. He is prepared to tolerate this for the length of the experiment, but otherwise he does not like the idea of "constantly being watched".




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