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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Council considers road toll charges
Edinburgh's Royal Mile
The charges would help fund improvements
Drivers could be charged up to 3 to take their cars into Edinburgh city centre if new proposals are approved by the Scottish Executive.

Edinburgh City Council said the step was necessary to cut down on congestion on the capital's roads.

It said the money raised by the tolls would be used to fund 800m transport improvements, including the re-introduction of trams, improved bus services, an enhanced rail network and better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

Full details of the proposals will be contained in the council's New Transport Initiative, which will be officially launched on Wednesday.

Princes Street
Edinburgh city centre: Bid to ease congestion

It will spell out the council's plans for the next 15 years. If these are accepted they will be presented to the Scottish Executive for approval.

Friends of the Earth Scotland and the Scottish Green Party welcomed the proposals as a step in the right direction.

Stan Blackley, the council's transport spokesman, said the charges would not be introduced until 2005 at the earliest, by which time many of the planned improvements would already be in place.

He said: "The toll won't be more than 3. That's probably enough of a charge to convince one in six motorists to leave their car at home.

'Comprehensive plan'

"We don't want to empty the streets, but we do want to cut traffic congestion on busy roads at busy times of the day.

"Every single pound that is raised through the charge is ring-fenced for public transport improvement.

"But hopefully we'll have 250m worth of improvements in place before we introduce the charge. There's no point in us using a stick to beat people out of their cars with if there's no carrot to give them an incentive."

Robin Harper
Robin Harper: "A bold move"

The head of research at Friends of the Earth Scotland, Dr Richard Dixon, welcomed the plans.

"At last we have a comprehensive plan for transport in Edinburgh which aims to deliver real improvements to public transport, to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians, to reduce traffic danger in residential areas and to tackle Edinburgh's congestion problems.

"With 2,000 people dying each year in Scotland because of air pollution and road traffic's growing contribution to climate change, action on transport has never been more urgently needed.

Charges suspended

"Having agreed to waste 250m on a major motorway in Glasgow, the Scottish Executive could regain a little credibility if it were to make a significant contribution to public transport in the capital," he said.

Green Party MSP Robin Harper said: "This is a bold move by Edinburgh's council .

"It is the only Scottish local authority brave enough to consider introducing congestion charging which may be unpopular with motorists who don't fully understand the problems and the way the charge could work."

Last Friday, the Scottish Executive suspended toll charges on the Erskine Bridge after it discovered a shortfall in legislation which allowed officers to collect money for the crossing.

See also:

31 Aug 01 | Scotland
Fury over bridge tolls blunder
12 Sep 00 | Scotland
Ruling forces Skye toll increase
26 Jun 00 | Scotland
Skye tolls 'illegal'
30 Nov 99 | Scotland
VAT threat to bridge tolls
07 Sep 99 | Scotland
Drivers 'face more toll costs'
04 Nov 99 | Scotland
Roads plans prompt mixed reactions
04 Nov 99 | Scotland
Green light for roads projects
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