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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Road toll plan given green light
cars
Edinburgh's traffic jams could be tackled by a road toll plan
A public inquiry has found in favour of the introduction of a congestion charge in Edinburgh.

People in the city will be able to vote on the road toll proposals in a referendum next year.

Inquiry team members supported plans to charge drivers 2 per day to cross one of two cordons.

The experts ruled the plans were generally sound and that the project should go ahead but they have asked for some changes to the scheme.

The council wants two cordons, one inside the capital's ring road, the other round the city centre.

The charge would apply from 0700 -1830 at the inner cordon and 0700- 1000 at the outer boundary on weekdays.

Motorists would only be charged once each day and would not have to pay extra for crossing both cordons.

The money raised would be spent on public transport modernisation. Councillors are expected to give their formal backing in December.

If the proposals are approved in the referendum, they will be submitted to ministers.

It is the well off who favour tolls as it forces poorer drivers out of their way
National Alliance Against Tolls

The endorsement of the toll plan by the public inquiry was welcomed by the Greens.

MSP for the Lothians Mark Ballard said: "This scheme will make Edinburgh an even more attractive place to visit and shop.

"Congestion costs the British economy 20bn each year, so this can only be good for the city and good for business.

"The scheme will not only tackle congestion in the city, it will also help raise funds for public transport projects in Edinburgh and in other local authorities.

"This twin approach is by far the most sensible way forward."

Critics, including city centre businesses, residents' groups and leaders of neighbouring councils, have vowed to continue to voice their objections.

A spokesman for the National Alliance Against Tolls said: "Tolls are regressive.

"The driver of a small car pays the same as the driver of a large car. It is the well-off who favour tolls as it forces poorer drivers out of their way.

"Toll barriers are highest for the least well off.

"There will be a referendum on the tolls next year and we hope that the people of Edinburgh will throw the whole of the toll plans out."

Closure warning

The Scottish National Party's transport spokesman Fergus Ewing called it the "wrong scheme at the wrong time".

"It could force small businesses out of the city centre, or in the worst cases force them to close which will have no benefit to Scotland's economy," he went on.

"While it might persuade more people to use public transport, it is only with money from the congestion charging scheme that Edinburgh Council can afford to upgrade it.

"This means that people living in the capital, and indeed those who are visiting may have to wait years to see any kind of improvement."

Earlier this year, First Minister Jack McConnell said he was "very impressed" with the scheme currently being used in London and that Scotland would have to face up to the issue at some point.

London's 5-a-day charge for entering a central zone began in February last year.

London traffic
The London charge is 5 per day

It is estimated there has been a 30% reduction in congestion since then, with car journey times cut on average by 14%.

Traffic growth in Edinburgh was a "serious threat to the city's quality of life", the public inquiry heard.

Councillor Andrew Burns told the probe the status quo was not an option.

The inquiry was conducted by three independent reporters, all experts in town planning and transport issues.

Cllr Burns, the executive member for transport on Edinburgh City Council, said that the measure was needed in order to tackle traffic growth in the capital.

But Scottish Tory leader and MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands David McLetchie predicted the referendum would return a "no" vote.

He said: "The Labour council's plans are an unnecessary and unwarranted attack on motorists from an anti-car council.

"It should not need a referendum to kill this madcap scheme but if it is put to a vote then I know what the result will be."


SEE ALSO:
McConnell impressed by road tolls
06 Jul 04  |  Scotland
Retailer's fear on congestion fee
21 Apr 04  |  Scotland
Council defends road tolls
15 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Plan to ban cars gets green light
12 Aug 03  |  Scotland
Top store hit by road charge
04 Sep 03  |  London
Tram line on track for 2009
04 Mar 03  |  Scotland


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