Traffic will worsen without charges, say directors

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The Independent Online

Labour's £180bn 10-year plan to boost public transport and tackle traffic congestion is doomed to failure, a scathing report from the Institute of Directors says today.

The IoD warns that motorists face worsening "misery" over the next decade unless the Government builds more roads and introduces tolls to deter casual drivers.

The transport blueprint, unveiled last year by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, envisaged a 17 per cent increase in vehicles by 2010, but predicted congestion would be little changed. But the IoD says it fears the Government has underestimated the increased pressure on roads caused by economic growth and exaggerated the number of people who will use trains instead of cars.

The IOD says the number of miles travelled by cars and vans in Britain each year has soared by 1,300 per cent in 50 years, while the total road network has increased by only a quarter.

It argues that road-pricing schemes ­ both congestion charging and tolls on motorways and trunk roads ­ are "technically feasible and inevitable". The organisation, which represents 54,000 members in Britain, argues that the extra charges should be offset by cuts in petrol duties.

Ministers are urged in the IoD report, More Roads and Road Pricing ­ The Way to Go?, to introduce "far greater private investment" both on roads and other parts of the transport network.

The report's author, Graeme Leach, chief economist at the IoD, said: "The solution to road congestion has to involve greater market forces. We cannot go on running our road network like the old Soviet economy, with rationing by queueing.

"The IoD does not believe the Government can achieve its targets for reducing congestion without widespread road-pricing. But even this is unlikely to be sufficient. We have to face up to a simple truth, in the face of strong opposition from the environmental lobby ­ that more road capacity will have to be built."

A spokesman for the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions said: "We will study the report with interest."

The 10-year plan comprises an extra £60bn for railways, allowing them to carry 50 per cent more passengers, another £59bn for roads, widening 360 miles of main routes, and £59bn more for local schemes.