CBI wants congestion charges nationwide to replace road tax

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The Independent Online

The Confederation of British Industry is to urge the Government to scrap road tax and replace it with a widespread system of congestion charging.

Britain's most powerful business lobby group will make the case as part of a steering group specially formed by the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, to look into road charging.

Made up of 20 members, including officials from the Department for Transport, the Treasury, Transport for London and lobby groups, the group will next year report on whether it is practical to set up road charging in the UK.

Michael Roberts, director of business environment at the CBI and a member of the group, said: "We are in favour of replacing the road tax system with a charging-based regime. Road users, whether it is freight or travelling businessmen, are not getting a fair deal with the way roads are paid for. Britain has the most congested roads in Europe, but [motorists] are the most highly taxed. There is a case for delivering better results in terms of value for money."

However, Mr Roberts added that if road tax was to be replaced, the new system had to generate sufficient cash to be invested in the roads: "Will charging raise as much money as the tax system? Do we trust the Government to replace one with another? These are the big questions."

And he said the impact on business of congestion charging in London needed to be examined. On Friday Westminster Council published a survey claiming that 68.9 per cent of companies thought running their businesses was more difficult with congestion charging.

The steering committee's findings, due early next year, will be fed into Mr Darling's revision of the Government's 10-year transport plan. In July the CBI lashed out at the minister's proposals when he published his third progress report on the plan. The organ-isation claims congestion costs industry £15bn-£20bn a year.