MOTORING: Congestion toll for drivers

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

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. 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."