Chamber: Why we back road pricing

ONE-and-a-half million people may have signed a petition on the Downing Street website to protest again road pricing, but local business remains overwhelmingly in favour of it. The petition claimed that a satellite-based road pricing system would enable t

ONE-and-a-half million people may have signed a petition on the Downing Street website to protest again road pricing, but local business remains overwhelmingly in favour of it.

The petition claimed that a satellite-based road pricing system would enable the Government to monitor individuals' movements.

The technology probably exists, but quite what interest anyone would have in monitoring the movement of law-abiding citizens is not explained.

The Norwegians have had a comparable systems for two decades without cries of anguish from the human rights lobby.


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Thousands of other Britons have signed a counter-petition urging the Government to press ahead with road pricing as quickly as possible, even though Tony Blair has said any scheme is at least 10 years away.

And Cambridgeshire business leaders stand four-square behind the pro-pricing lobby.

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In a recent Chamber of Commerce survey, 82 per cent of businesses described the road network as essential to their operations and 84 per cent said road congestion affected their business locally.

John Bridge, chief executive of the county's chambers and a former Huntingdon businessman who lives in Great Stukeley, said: "The transport infrastructure in Britain is failing British business. Our roads are overly congested and our public transport system cannot cope.

"Congestion on our roads alone is costing business £17billion a year and this is harming the UK's competitiveness. Increased capacity is sorely needed on Britain's roads yet, of the £42billion taken in taxes from all road users, the Government spends just £1.6billion a year on the construction of trunk roads and motorways.

"Our public transport system needs increased investment and improvement across the board if the Government is expecting more and more people to rely on it.

"Our members - small and medium sized business - have had enough and want a transport system fit for the 21st century. A recent survey of our members found that 87 per cent are in favour of some form of road user charging.

"But any money raised must be offset by a reduction in other forms of tax such as fuel duty and road tax and be ring-fenced towards improving transport infrastructure.

"To gain support, any proposals on road pricing must not be just an extra tax but form part of a thorough, strategic plan on the future of transport in the UK."

Mr Bridge said he was worried this would not happen, even though the Cambridge trial, being worked up by the county council, is supposed to be revenue-neutral.

"The Government is blackmailing councils into these schemes," he said. "If authorities are not looking into a scheme, they are not getting any money for anything.

"The Government seems to want to blame local councils if it goes wrong, without taking responsibility for it.

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