Government changes tone on road pricing as 1.7m sign anti-charging petition
The Government says that plans for pilot road pricing schemes are not neccessarily steps towards a national strategy. The statement from Downing Street followed the signing of an e-petition in opposition to road charging by 1.7m people.
The BBC also reported that a poll they commissioned and which was carried out by ICM found that nearly 75% of people are opposed to the idea of charging motorists by the mile. However, 55% of those surveyed said that they would change their minds and support such a scheme if the money raised was used to improve public transport.
The Government has continued to defend the concept of road user charging, saying that doing nothing about congestion is not an option and officials have also confirmed that they will press ahead with 10 road pricing pilot schemes in 10 locations around the country. Government spokespeople have repeatedly stated that the public need more information on how road user charging would operate in practice before coming to a conclusion about its merits.
The original plans to introduce a nationwide charging system for road use were unveiled by former Transport Secretary Alistair Darling in 2005. Douglas Alexander, Mr Darling's successor, has strengthened his predecessor's commitment saying that road pricing could be brought in within a decade.
The Department for Transport has been consistent in avoiding any direct commitment to use road user charging as a mechanism for reducing carbon emissions and thus mitigating climate change.
Some stakeholder organisations have stepped in to counter the attacks on road user charging. In a joint briefing, Transport 2000 and Friends of the Earth said that much of the information propagated by the Downing Street petitioners is inaccurate. In a press release the two organisations said: "We believe that road pricing could play an important role in reducing congesting if a scheme were joined with improvements in public transport to tackle climate change."
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