Alistair Darling revealed details of the fund’s plans with a warning that Britain will face gridlock in the next 20 years if action isn’t taken to tackle congestion.
The fund will help local authorities and organisations carry out local trials of road pricing systems as part of a plan to have a national scheme up and running in about 15 years.
It is part of a wide range of schemes designed to tackle congestion, he said, including hard shoulder running at peak times, motorway widening for the M1 and M25 and a car pooling lane for the M1, M25 and M62.
He argued that a 4% reduction in traffic would create a 40% cut in congestion and added: ‘We have to reach agreement on how to deal with the problems of the future. There are currently £32 million cars on our roads and by 2030 the population will have grown by six million.
‘We could face gridlock in the next 20 to 30 years and there is no big band approach to tackling it. We must have a national debate and consensus to come forward with measures which will include road pricing.’
Darling, speaking at the centenary dinner of the AA, held in Whitehall, said that when the organisation was first formed there were 17,000 cars on the road.
The plans for road pricing have come under attack from the fleet industry, mainly because fleets want to see short-term action to reduce congestion, rather than the start of a long-term debate, which carries significant risk of the road pricing project failing.