Electronic tags to beat the jams

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The Independent Online
Motorists in the Midlands are to become the first to face charges for taking their cars into a city centre in an experiment to find the best way to tackle road congestion ad pollution.

From Monday, volunteer drivers will have to pay tolls along a two-mile route into Leicester as part of a pounds 2.5m road-pricing experiment being backed by the Department of Transport and the European Commission.

Traffic experts want to find out if tolls are an effective way of reducing congestion. The latest predictions suggest that the number of cars on the road could double in the next 25 years.

The volunteer commuters, using "smart cards" fitted to their windscreens, will be charged automatically for each journey along a section of the A47 trunk road.

Angela Thomas is one of the 200 drivers recruited for the trial. She told BBC Radio 5 Live: "There is more and more traffic on the roads, and city centres are not going to be pleasant places to be if we continue the way we are."

The volunteers have been given money to pay the tolls but will be allowed to keep any cash they save by opting to use park-and-ride services, or by avoiding rush-hours. The charges will vary from pounds 2 and pounds 10, depending on the time of day and the levels of pollution.

The experiment will also see the start of a new cheap and frequent park- and-ride service, with four new buses - costing pounds 80,000 each - travelling along special bus lanes to beat city-centre congestion.

For the next eight months, the attitudes and habits of volunteer drivers will be closely monitored. Experts throughout Europe will be able to analyse the data gathered in the trial.

Leicester City Council's environment committee chairman, Ted Cassidy, said: "Charging motorists for going into the city centre will be the last resort. It may be necessary in the future - if all the other measures, in terms of better public transport, control of car parking etc, don't work then this city, as well as many other cities, will have to try other means."

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