BUSINESS drivers are being promised relief from some of the country's most congested roads with a £7 billion package of improvements for traffic hotspots.
But the Government has warned that although fleet costs could be reduced through fewer delays, more road tolls could be put in place as part of 'sensible' road management.
The programme includes a plan to widen motorways and trunk roads as well as stepping up traffic management measures, including driving on the hard shoulder where it can be done safely.
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling claimed the package would add significant capacity to Britain's road network and improve safety.
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) chief Digby Jones threw his support behind the plans, claiming that it could bring long-overdue cuts in congestion.
The CBI estimates that congestion could cost the economy up to £20 billion a year. Jones said: 'We have the most congested roads in Europe and that is simply unacceptable. Congestion is undermining our competitiveness and deterring investment. Some road expansion on key routes is essential if we are to meet the transport needs of the economy. But nobody is saying we should just build our way out of trouble.
'We also need to make better use of the network and so welcome the feasibility study into charging for road use.'
Darling rejected a number of proposed schemes across the country which were believed to have unacceptable and avoidable consequences to the local environment.
He said: 'The new investment in our major transport corridors will deliver real improvements for people and businesses across the country.
'The improvements are essential to tackling congestion on major routes – particularly the widening of the M25 and M1. They will add vital capacity to the road network and support economic growth.
'Looking ahead 20 to 30 years, as the economy grows and people become better off, we face increasing pressure on road space. We will not be able to build our way out of all the pressures we will face. Road user charging has to be considered as part of sensible management of our roads. It could provide a better deal for motorists giving them choice as to how and when they travel.'
He said he had ordered a feasibility study to look at the practicalities of such a scheme.
How the £7 billion will be spent: