Charging motorists for each mile they travel is "inevitable" if future traffic gridlock is to be avoided, a report from the RAC Foundation said today.
A "pay-as-you-go" system could be the answer to congestion, said the report from the foundation's director Professor Stephen Glaister.
What was needed was a fundamental shift in the way England's roads were managed and paid for, he said.
The launch of the report coincided with an Ipsos Mori report for the RAC Foundation which showed that 58% of drivers agreed that a per-mile, pay-as-you-go system across all roads would make them think about how much they drive.
Prof Glaister's report identified a series of problems facing road users and governments in the future.
These included a lack of vision for the road network, a 33% increase in traffic by 2025 and reduced spending on road infrastructure because of financial and political constraints.
He said a system of charging motorists per mile travelled had to come with:
:: A cut in fuel duty and road tax;
:: A governing body to develop and implement a long-term strategy for maintaining and enhancing the road network;
:: A guaranteed sum of revenue put aside to pay for the work and a regulator to ensure the work was done efficiently;
:: More reliable journey times and compensation for delays.
Prof Glaister said: "Some form of 'pay-as-you-go' system is inevitable because of the benefits it will deliver for motorists and the country, and the lack of a credible alternative.
"Our poll shows that most people are instinctively opposed to road charging when they think it is an extra tax. But when the details are explained and they realise the benefits then the opposition falls away dramatically.
"It is also telling that less than 1% of those opposed to pay-as-you-go see invasion of privacy as a major reason for objection."
He added: "Motorists are resentful of the relentless rise in the cost of fuel and feel short-changed by the amount spent on the road network. But these proposals address such issues. People are very familiar with the principle of pay-as-you-go. For example we are already charged for gas and electricity on the basis of how much we use.
"If politicians shy away from making difficult choices then so be it, but it will be the next generation which has to live with the consequences."
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We have no plans to introduce a charging programme for existing roads, which are publicly owned and have already been paid for by the taxpayer.
"To tackle congestion in financially constrained times we will ensure we are making the most of our existing roads. We might however consider building new toll roads; the M6 toll road is a good example of how you can create new capacity with private capital."
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