Road toll charges `years away'

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Drivers entering towns and cities will be unlikely to face toll charges for several years, Brian Mawhinney, the Secretary of State for Transport, indicated yesterday.

In a speech to the Leeds and Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Dr Mawhinney said that while he understood road charging would be the most efficient way of allocating road space, charging for city congestion would be "a major and controversial undertaking. At the moment it is unrealistic, for we do not have the necessary information about its potential consequences - good or bad".

The results of a three-year study into introducing congestion-charging in London are expected this summer. "While I will not prejudge the results, I believe work will be necessary before we will be able to formulate a policy," Dr Mawhinney said, adding that available technology, privacy considerations and possible effects on businesses and property values would need to be examined.

His comments are in line with the House of Commons transport committee which last week said it thought it was unlikely the Government would introduce urban road pricing.

His address was the sixth, and final, speech in a series designed to encourage widespread debate about the future direction of transport policy.

He said public transport was not the "forgotten Cinderella" of transport, and added that bus and rail privatisation would introduce a "greater choice of services and more flexible ones".