Nationwide road tolls 'possible within 15 years'

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A nationwide road-user charging scheme in which motorists might pay up to 134p a mile could be possible within 10-15 years, according to a government-established feasibility study out today.

A nationwide road-user charging scheme in which motorists might pay up to 134p a mile could be possible within 10-15 years, according to a government-established feasibility study out today.

But it would be "a massive and complex task" to introduce such a system that would be based on time, distance and place, and could cut congestion by a half and save £12 billion a year.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said "a lot of work" would have to be done before it was sure the scheme would work.

But he added that doing nothing about congestion was not an option and to duck the challenge on road pricing would be "irresponsible and would condemn future generations to endless delays and increasing environmental damage".

In the meantime, a number of congestion charging schemes - similar to that already operating in London - might be introduced.

Mr Darling said: "I know these things are difficult and controversial. You have to take the public with you, you have to win their confidence.

"Moving to a national scheme would be fraught with difficulties. Introducing this scheme would be instead of the present (motoring tax) system.

"What we are not talking about is piling one tax on another."

Mr Darling published the feasibility study along with a review of the Government's 10-year transport plan and a report on the £10 billion cross-London Crossrail scheme.

Mr Darling confirmed the Government would be introducing a Bill at the earliest opportunity to take the powers necessary for Crossrail to be built.

But he added the plans needed to be "robust and value for money" and the £10 billion cost represented "a huge challenge both to deliver and fund".

Mr Darling also said there was a "relatively weak case" for an extension of the project to Richmond and Kingston in south west London and an extension to near Maidenhead in Berkshire might be better. Consequently, more work was needed on the route.

Mr Darling announced £340 million extra funding for Transport for London to help improve transport to aid London's 2012 Olympics bid.

The Transport Secretary said three tram or light rail schemes - Manchester Metro extension, Leeds and South Hampshire - were being scrapped because of cost escalations.

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