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Debate on UK Road Pricing is a Sham
by David Millward

Motorists have been told that the arrival of pay-as-you-drive road pricing is inevitable, despite the Government's assurances that a final decision has still to be taken.

The assertion by Douglas Alexander that the Government has merely been involved in a debate on the issue has been undermined by one of his own ministers.

The Transport Secretary had sought to persuade voters that the Government would listen to voters and take into account the groundswell of opposition to the plans which could see motorists paying up to £1.28 a mile.

But it emerged yesterday that the Government's mind has been made up, despite assurances to the contrary.

Stephen Ladyman, the roads minister, left little room for doubt in a little noticed parliamentary debate on the issue. Speaking to MPs, he said. "Road pricing is inevitable. I see no alternative to it in the long-term. There will be national road-pricing. We have said that that will happen around the middle of the next decade, although I shall not have a sweepstake on exactly what year it will be."

By last night the number of people adding their name to the internet petition calling for the plans to be scrapped was well over 1.3 million. The London congestion charge has failed to cause a significant reduction in delays on the capital's roads, it emerged yesterday.

In the last two years the congestion endured by drivers in central London has actually got worse, according to Transport for London figures.

The amount of traffic entering the zone during charging hours has been cut by around 20 per cent since the charge was introduced in 2003, but this has been largely offset by a reduction in the capacity of the capital's roads, due to road works and the introduction of bus lanes.

Congestion fell by 30 per cent in the first year of the charging scheme but is now only 8 per cent below pre-charging levels.

The westward extension of the charging zone next week is expected to increase congestion in central London, as motorists living in Kensington and Chelsea will be entitled to discounted access to the existing zone.
The Daily Telegraph, 14th February 2007