Letter: Off the road

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The Independent Culture
Sir: This country needs a major increase in the level of investment in transport infrastructure, to at least double the present level (leading article, 9 December). But we are not going to be able to meet all of the growing demand for travel by just increasing road capacity.

We need to encourage a switch to public transport, particularly in urban areas; to walking and cycling for shorter journeys; and to help people satisfy more of their needs locally so that we do not perpetuate the trend towards longer and longer journeys (a primary cause of increasing congestion over the last 20 years).

However, experience shows that these measures alone, vital though they are, will have only a limited effect. To make a noticeable difference, they need to be combined with measures to charge for the use of congested roads. Congestion charging is both justified in its own right and can, if used to raise capital up front, provide the means to fund increased investment.

Because the greatest benefit will be to public transport, congestion charging does not hit the poorest hardest in urban areas, and, if it is used sensibly over time to reduce vehicle excise duty and fuel duty, would help poorer people in rural areas too.

The public is not as hostile to this approach as some would have us believe. Recent opinion surveys show that the most popular way of dealing with London's transport problems is to improve public transport, and that the most popular way of paying for this is through charges on road use. Indeed one might ask what might be the alternative - higher council tax or higher income tax?


Chief Executive, The Institute of Logistics and Transport

London W1