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Nationwide charging to cost £16 billion

CONGESTION charges should be introduced nationally by 2010 and added on top of fuel taxes to help reduce traffic and pollution, according to a report from an influential independent think-tank.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) argues that if motorists are to be asked to pay more, revenue raised should pay for better roads and public transport and that road tax should be abolished.

If a national congestion charge scheme – which added congestion charges to fuel taxes – was introduced by the end of decade it could potentially raise an additional £16 billion per year.

The ippr commissioned Imperial College in London to undertake research on the effects that a national congestion charging scheme could have if it were introduced on roads throughout England in 2010.

It shows that, given fuel costs are expected to fall, it does not make sense to introduce congestion charging on a revenue neutral basis with offsetting fuel tax reductions, as had been suggested by some experts. A revenue neutral charging scheme could actually increase traffic levels, especially in rural areas, and raise carbon dioxide emissions.

But if congestion charges were added on top of fuel taxes, it could reduce traffic by 7%, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 8% and increase bus use by 11%. Under current plans, the Government forecasts that traffic will grow by between 20% to 25% by the end of the decade due to a combination of falling fuel prices and improvements in fuel efficiency.

Road transport will be the only sector with growing carbon dioxide emissions, the main greenhouse gas responsible for the human contribution to climate change.

Rising road transport emissions could endanger the prospects of meeting the Government's climate change target to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010.

Julie Foley, ippr transport research fellow, said: 'In the coming years there is likely to be little extra money for transport as health and education will be the priority spending areas. Congestion charging could not only help to reduce traffic and cut pollution but also provide a much needed source of revenue for paying for better roads and public transport.'

  • The survey comes at a time when the company running London's congestion charge, Capita, has been fined £1m for its poor performance in delivering equipment and dealing with drivers. The fine was disclosed in a report by the London Assembly.
  • The full IPPR report is available at www.ippr.org.
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