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DfT denies road pricing retreat

The Retail Motor Industry Federation has welcomed the Government’s retreat on a national road pricing scheme, despite the fact the Department for Transport has denied that it actually has been abandoned.

Alec Murray, chairman of the RMIF, said: “By dropping road pricing from the latest draft of the Local Transport Bill, the Government has acknowledged the logistical difficulty of implementing a national road pricing regime.

“Public hostility towards the proposals showed the plan was unworkable. There were many unanswered questions surrounding the concept, and the perceived financial returns and practical benefits were exaggerated.

However, there seems to be some confusion from both sides. A DfT spokesman said: “No decision has been taken on a national scheme. Our policy is to work with local authorities and we will only make a decision when these schemes have been fully evaluated.” Murray said the RMIF raised its concerns about the road pricing scheme two months ago with the Minister for Transport who had urged them to have subsequent meetings on the subject with other officials in the department. Meetings were also held with shadow transport ministers as recently as last week at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton.

Murray adds: “We know from our discussions with Government that their implementation plans were ill-thought out, and costly for the individual motorist, and consequently bad for businesses.”

While confusion about the future of road pricing remains, opposition continues to mount – some 1.8 million signatures have been received on a Downing Street web-petition.

“The Government appears to have hit a brick wall in trying to convince the public about road pricing,” said the director of the RAC Foundation, Edmund King.

He suggests that a voluntary scheme with rewards for early adopters, including cuts in fuel tax, might be the way ahead.

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