Congestion costs British businesses around £15 billion a year and the Government says the two-pronged attack on road transport will make essential journeys quicker and easier, and pump around £1 billion a year into local authority coffers with the cash raised to be spent on improving local transport. However, publication of the Government's consultation document - 'Breaking the Logjam' the transportation paper on fighting traffic congestion and pollution through road user and workplace parking charges - throws up numerous uncertainties.
A timetable for the introduction of the measures is unclear with congestion charging levels - figures of £1 to £4 per vehicle have been mooted - exemptions, and penalties for non-compliance, all part of the consultation process which continues until March 31, 1999. Workplace parking rates have not been considered.
While Prescott says he expects London to be the first city to introduce charges in about 18 months introduction of the radical measures must be approved by the capital's new Mayor. Elsewhere in England and Wales local authorities will be left to decide whether to introduce schemes. The Scottish assembly already has the power to introduce such measures. Transport Minister John Reid conceded that councils which decided against introducing charges could be the winners as companies looked to relocate to avoid charges.