School run drivers face peak-time road tolls under government plan to curb traffic growth

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The Independent Online

Environmental groups have welcomed government plans to introduce road tolls during busy times such as the school run to cut Britain's soaring traffic growth.

Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, said that he wanted to experiment with a range of measures including peak-time road pricing. In a newspaper interview, he said that unless the Government acted "future generations will not forgive us".

He also indicated that he was ready to consider using satellites to track cars so that journeys could be billed.

Friends of the Earth welcomed suggestions for a road-pricing scheme. But Roger Higman, a transport campaigner for the organisation, warned that there should also be greater investment in public transport and bicycles to help to tackle global warming. He said: "At long last the Government appears to accept that road pricing is needed to tackle the volume of traffic on our roads. But it isn't the only answer. There should be far greater investment in affordable, safe and reliable alternatives to the car to cut congestion and help tackle climate change."

Paul Watters, head of roads and transport policy at the AA, said fuel tax was the best way of charging drivers. "Our latest research on paying for motoring shows that the most hated option was using a tracking system to charge drivers. People didn't want to be tracked and didn't believe such a system would work reliably," he said.

The Government has indicated its intention to press ahead with road charges for motorways in the past. But Mr Darling told The Observer that the new scheme would apply to congested roads in general to "manage demand". Building more roads was not the answer to gridlock. He said: "You can't build yourself out of the problem that we face. We have a choice in the next 25 to 30 years: either we build more and more motorways - astronomically expensive, environmentally damaging, and I doubt if we could actually do it - or we take a radically different look at how we manage the system."

The move to tax car drivers at busy times of day follows the introduction of weekday congestion charging in London, which runs from 7am to 6.30pm. The scheme hasreduced the amount of traffic on the roads.