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Pay-as-you-go road tolls set for 2007 start

A leaked letter from the UK’s top transport official has suggested that a national road pricing scheme could start next year – and would use national standards and prices to avoid driver confusion.

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander wants a bill passed through parliament as early as next year that would pave the way for a pay-as-you-go drive scheme, although experts still predict a full-blown system is still 10 years away.

National newspaper reports say a letter written by Alexander to cabinet colleagues tells them he wants his department to set prices and national standards.

They claim that he also wants charging systems in cities which would all be compatible with each other, to prevent causing confusion for motorists travelling from city to city.

Since the notion of road pricing was first raised, fleet experts have stressed the importance of having an inter-operable system.

They say having different pricing systems and technologies for each major city would cause them an administrative nightmare.

In the letter, Alexander also states that it may be necessary to charge motorists travelling on trunk roads that surround cities.

Proposing a new bill, Alexander reportedly wrote: ‘The main purpose of the bill would be to support our efforts to cut congestion and improve public transport, particularly in the major cities outside London.

‘It would also help to pave the way for a national road pricing scheme in the medium to long term.’

He added: ‘I would propose reforming the current arrangements for approving local road pricing schemes, providing better targeted powers to ensure that schemes are consistent with a national framework and are inter-operable.’

The system would work by installing black boxes in cars that will make it possible for motorists to be charged according to the distance travelled and the time of day at which they travel.’

Commenting on the latest reports, a spokesman for the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association said: ‘We have always said there should be just one charging system for the UK, that is an absolutely given.

‘And we also want the London Congestion Charge included in that pricing system.

‘Any scheme should also be revenue neutral – we don’t want motorists to have to pay more for journeys. This could include cuts on fuel tax, or whatever.’

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