Majority in favour of town-centre road tolls

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The Independent Online

Nurses and doctors will be given exemptions from the Government's plans to impose workplace parking charges to cut down commuting by car.

Nurses and doctors will be given exemptions from the Government's plans to impose workplace parking charges to cut down commuting by car.

Local authorities will be given wide discretion to levy the charges but a government report presented to Parliament yesterday said there should be a national exemption for NHS hospitals where some facilities would be open 24 hours.

Ministers believe the exemption should be given to medical and nursing staff who may have no reasonable alternative to travelling to work by car, sometimes at short notice in response to emergencies.

The results of the Government's consultation exercise on plans to charge for travelling to work by car showed a three-to-one majority in favour of imposing charges for driving on the core road network in towns.

Businesses were "broadly supportive" but are pressing for more exemptions from workplace charges. Businesses could face heavy fines of £100 per car for breaking the limits for car parking set out in their local authority licences.

Firms led demands for exemptions for businesses that encouraged "green commuting" schemes such as car-sharing. Ministers said they intended to leave the decision to local authorities.

The Government is still resisting pressure to extend the parking levies to shops and leisure parking at out-of-town sites but has called for a further review by the Commission for Integrated Transport.

Charities and disabled groups pressed for a general exemption for drivers with "orange badge" passes allowing them free parking on the grounds that the disabled have to rely on their cars to shop and get to work.

Many people fear, however, that the orange badge scheme has been abused by people who are not genuinely disabled. And that may have led to a hostile response to the idea of exempting all cars displaying the badge unless the system is reformed. A majority supported a national exemption for disabled persons' vehicles that do not require a tax disc.

Congestion charging could see a boom in motorcycling as the Government said motorcycles should be exempt from the charges. Emergency vehicles such as police, fire and ambulance, will also be exempt, but breakdown vehicles used by motoring organisations will not.

The RAC said it believedcongestion and breakdowns were "interlinked" and "to overcome the problems caused by breakdowns there has to be an exemption" for rescue and recovery vehicles.

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