MacGregor cites benefit of road tolls

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(First Edition)

THE GOVERNMENT appears ready to endorse the idea of motorway tolls and road pricing.

In a departure from previous more carefully worded statements, John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, said the potential benefits of charging 'might be considerable'. Any decision to go ahead is likely to be politically controversial.

Mr MacGregor, however, argued that the roads programme could be speeded up if toll charges were imposed on motorway users and people would be able to make more realistic comparisons between different methods of transport when considering journeys. He told the Financial Times Transport for Europe Conference that alternative ideas for road pricing would be set out in a consultation paper to be published in the spring.

'I hope we can have a well informed and carefully considered public debate - not just knee-jerk reactions - before we reach conclusions.'

He said that there was a great need for significant increases in inter-urban road capacity, which would be very expensive to provide.

He said: 'Direct charging could not only provide much needed extra finance to speed up the road programme, it could also concentrate minds on the costs of individual journeys.'