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Saturday, 23 November, 2002, 14:59 GMT
Tolls 'would curb M25 traffic jams'
The M25 is dubbed the world's biggest car park
Motorway tolls are the best way of solving congestion on Britain's busiest road, the M25, a report has found.

It suggests that nearly half of the 120-mile motorway - dubbed the world's biggest car park - should be widened from three to four lanes each way.

The radical measures to tackle traffic growth are contained in a report for the Government Office for the South East.

The proposed road charging area
The report's authors add that the widening of the motorway should only go ahead if tolls are introduced within a 50-mile radius of London.

David Hardcastle, project manager of the report, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that motorway widening alone had historically encouraged more congestion.

But by introducing tolls at the same time, the extra traffic could be prevented from filling the new capacity.

Among the recommendations in the report are:

  • Widening 50 miles of the M25 from three lanes to four, as soon as possible, at a cost of 850m

  • Charging a toll of 3p a mile on widened stretches and ploughing the profits into public transport

  • A regional road toll scheme around London to stretch from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire to Chelmsford in Essex, and Guildford in Surrey to Stevenage in Hertfordshire

  • An interim "ramp-metering" system which controls the flow of vehicles coming on to the motorway by traffic lights

    Mr Hardcastle, of consultants Kellogg Brown and Root, said the main recommendation was for an "area-wide" charging scheme which would use satellite technology to monitor the journeys of all motorists and charge them per mile.

    He added: "There are some very stark choices for government in terms of transport in the future.

    "Either to allow the present congestion to get worse and worse, to try and build their way out of the congestion, which is against government policy and will probably ensure a never-ending cycle of road-building.

    Average M25 Traffic Speed Below 55mph
    1997: 33%
    2011: 45%
    2021: 59%

    *1997 study of 7-10am period
    "Or road-user charging, which offers real prospects to stabilise traffic levels."

    Decisions about the M25 and the area around it will be made by the government next year.

    But ministers have said road tolls will not be introduced during this decade.

    A government report published in June concluded that if nothing is done to drastically reduce congestion, the M25 corridor will see a 33% increase in traffic by 2016.

    Earlier in the year Lord Birt, appointed by Tony Blair to look at transport policy, recommended a network of "premium" toll roads to be built alongside existing motorways.

    Congestion charging starts in central London next February.

    Do you think tolls are the answer to the M25's problems? Would you be prepared to pay? What measures would you suggest in their place? E-mail us your thoughts using the form below and we will publish a selection here.

    This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

    Toll charges would create havoc on local roads

    Cindy b, England
    I live in one of the villages just 2 minutes drive from the M25 and feel that toll charges would create havoc on local roads, already filled with traffic trying to find their way out of M25 queues. Local Councils are unable to repair roads left in an appalling state by the increased traffic due to the Government not looking at the long term effect of the M25.
    Cindy b, England

    Charging tolls on congested portions of the M25 could make sense, but "ploughing the profits into public transport" does not. If users are prepared to pay for a scarce resource, should not the profits be used to increase the supply?
    Gabriel Roth, UK

    Making the M25 a toll road is a surefire way to guarantee even worse congestion on every other road around. Motorways are still the safest and normally quickest means of road travel and additional lanes or motorways should be constructed to keep abreast of demand. The only way to fairly reduce traffic is to improve the alternatives so that they're actually a better alternative.
    Michael P, UK

    Educate the road users to drive with consideration and we would not have the problem

    Nick, England
    Every day I see the same problem on the Motorway - a fast lane that is congested, slow and frustrating, a middle lane with a lot of cars that should be in the slow lane and a slow lane that is almost empty ! The German autobahns run well with just 2 lanes - one is reserved for overtaking only - and if you are in it, you get out of the way of faster moving traffic Educate the road users to drive with consideration and we would not have the problem
    Nick, England

    Isn't the motorist punished enough? What's Road Tax, Petrol Duty, Petrol VAT for? It will be cheaper to pay the 5 to go through central London than to travel around the M25. Surely the idea was to take traffic out of London and link other Motorways with the M25? Once again the motorist would bear the brunt for years whilst the government sat on their backsides thinking of a public transport solution which will never be built. After all, we can't even make our Railways better when the groundwork was done years ago.
    GW, UK

    Tolls will help but the fundamental issue is the lack of road knowledge displayed by drivers. A stricter, more comprehensive driving test and compulsory advanced driver training is required.
    Joe, UK

    Another case of the government and public sector fanatics suggesting charging twice for goods or services that are already poorly managed and over-priced. The people in the real world have to suffer the consequences of sandal-wearing tree huggers and their often ill conceived and usually incorrect suggestions.
    Curtis B, UK

    What? Pay to use a road which I already pay for through car tax (previously called road tax) and fuel VAT?
    Gareth Cooper, UK

    It feels like road users have a choice in the matter!

    John R, Hong Kong
    From comments so far it feels like road users have a choice in the matter! Where is option to use another form of transport which doesn't cost more and take twice as long or even more to get from one location to the next? Overcrowded trains etc etc, instead of ploughing in that much money to widen the existing road, why not invest in rail infrastructure instead?
    John R, Hong Kong

    This scheme shows a desire to charge road users a portion of the real cost of their road use. Just as a train fare must represent all costs and any externalities, so too must the cost of using a road. Fuel tax pays a portion of the massive environmental costs associated with car use. The proposed road tax represents the cost of using a scarce resource (i.e. the road) in congested areas. It's not nice to pay for something previously free, but users (myself included) will be happy at the stabilised congestion. Non-users will be happy that it is users who are financially accountable for the congestion which they cause.
    Adam, England

    The M25's problems are caused by it being used for short journeys, just going one or two junctions when it was supposed to be a ring road. Closing all but six or so junctions spaced regularly around the M25 and upgrading local roads for the local traffic is the solution.
    Paul R, UK

    We were recently caught in a terrible traffic jam on the M25 (five hours to Margate from Heathrow) and the speed in which the M25 closed down was frightening. I feel a toll (as at Dartford tunnel) would give transport authorities the required funds to upgrade and maintain the orbital road. BUT not to go into any consolidated government fund so widely used by most governments.
    Spenser Dike, Australia

    This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
    The BBC's Simon Montague
    "The congestion debate won't go away"
    David Hardcastle, study consultant
    "When the M25 has been widened in the past, it quickly fills up with traffic"

    Click here to go to BBC London Online
    Would you pay tolls on motorways?



    4257 Votes Cast

    Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

    See also:

    01 Jun 02 | Politics
    20 May 02 | UK
    30 May 02 | Politics
    04 Aug 00 | UK
    02 Jun 02 | Politics
    11 Apr 02 | Politics
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