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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
Darling considers 'spy-in-the-sky' plan
London traffic
Drivers would be charged for peak-time road use
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is looking at plans to put electronic tracking devices in each of the UK's 24 million registered cars.


We are some way down the road to looking at the technology

Alistair Darling
Under the proposals, journeys would be monitored by satellite and drivers billed according to their road use.

Instead of the current flat rate road tax, people using busy roads at peak times would pay more than those making fewer journeys on quieter roads.

Mr Darling believes the scheme could cut road congestion - but opponents have called it an invasion of privacy and "anti-motorist".

'New thinking needed'

John Dawson, of the AA, said there needed to be assurances that this was not just another way of extracting more tax revenue out of motorists.

"Quiet rightly, they (motorists) don't trust government promises on tax," he said.

But pressure group Transport 2000 welcomed the plan.

Spokeswoman Vicky Cann said: "Our transport system has got some serious problems and we need to look at innovative new ways of trying to deal with these.

"Road user charging is just along the right lines."

'Politically dangerous'

Mr Darling sets out his proposals in an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper.

"We are some way down the road to looking at the technology," he is quoted as saying.

A similar scheme to monitor movements of foreign lorries in the UK is due to come into force in 2006, which could pave the way for a scheme for cars.

"We have plans to monitor 450,000 foreign lorries - what is very new is the idea of monitoring 24 million cars," Mr Darling told the newspaper.

"If you accept the principle with lorries, it's seems difficult to see why shouldn't have a discussion about cars".

He said the scheme could be feasible "within a decade".

Mr Darling's predecessor Stephen Byers considered the idea too "politically dangerous", the newspaper reports.

In a separate development, Mr Darling said plans to build new motorways, floated by Tony Blair's policy advisers and former BBC director general Lord Birt, had been shelved.

"We had an interesting exchange of views," he told the newspaper.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Louise Bevan
"Unlike road tax, road pricing would be flexible"
See also:

20 May 02 | UK
15 Jul 02 | Politics
26 Feb 02 | UK
23 Mar 01 | Politics

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