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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Congestion charging faces jam
Traffic Jam
The government's Transport Bill allows councils to introduce congestion charges
Transport Minister Lord Macdonald has told MPs that plans to introduce congestion charging schemes in towns and cities could take as long as 10 years to implement.

Giving evidence to the Commons Transport Commmittee, Lord Macdonald said whilst some schemes would be up and running by the middle of the decade, the majority of the estimated 25 new schemes would not be in place until 2010.

Labour committee chairwoman Gwyneth Dunwoody pressed him on whether he was against charging in principle, or had "gone off it the nearer we get to a general election", but Lord Macdonald insisted the government fully supported such initiatives.

In the Transport Bill currently going through parliament, the government is giving local authorities powers to introduce congestion charging schemes, the profits of which will be ploughed back into local transport schemes.

Delay questioned

Mrs Dunwoody questioned why few such schemes would be up and running in the near future.

"It shouldn't take so long. It isn't a difficult thing to bring in, why should it take five years?" she asked.

Lord Macdonald replied: "This is a timescale that emerges from [local authority] thinking, knowing the local situations better than we do."

Lord Macdonald
Lord Macdonald: denied he has "gone off" congestion charging
He said it was important to ensure the correct technology and better public transport systems were in place before charges were introduced.

Securing support from business was also crucial to make congestion schemes work, he said.

He did acknowledge that many local authorities were not keen to introduce congestion charging schemes.

Doubts over London

The minister also questioned whether London Mayor Ken Livingstone's proposal to have charging in place within the next couple of years was viable, and suggested that plans to implement the scheme in the capital were moving too fast.

"We have cautioned all along that this must be done very pragmatically ... our advice to the mayor has been ... do try to think it through, get it right, take all the advice that's required.

"It's important to us because if it's successful in London other councils will be more minded to take it on," he said.

Lord Macdonald also told MPs to judge the government's 10-year transport plan on its success in reducing congestion.

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