Saturday, March 3, 2007
By James Chapman
Deputy Political Editor
Labour snubs protests to press on with pricing plans
A proposed 'lite' version of the Government's contraversial road pricing scheme has prompted a furious reaction.
Under the plans unveiled yesterday, Britain will be divided into a patchwork of road pricing zones, with motorists paying up to £1.50 a mile to drive in city centres.
But experts dismissed the idea as 'nonsense' and claimed Labour had ignored the objections of 1.8million Britons who signed a petition against road pricing.
Roads Minister Stephen Ladyman said the scheme would allay the concerns of drivers who object to being tracked by a satellite positioning device in their car.
Instead, cameras would record which zones drivers passed into at all times - as happens with London's £8-a-day congestion charge.
The charges under consideration are 2p a mile in rural areas, between 4p and 9p a mile in outer suburbs, between 14p and 86p in inner suburbs and £1.50 a mile in the most congested city centres.
Critics said it was clear ministers had failed to understand the depth of opposition to their plans.
Tory transport spokesman Chris Grayling said: "Behind the idea of zones lies the implicit promotion of a national scheme - how could you police the zones without some sort of national 'spy in the sky' technology?" A spokesman for the campaign group National Alliance Against Tolls said: "This is nonsense. Whatever system they use they can still record the movement of drivers, whether it is based on 'black boxes' or cameras."
The Government and its supporters are pretending that privacy concerns was the main reason that people signed the petition.
"If that was so why did the petition get 1.8million signatures while the petition against ID cards got only 28,000 signatures? Various surveys, including two carried out for the Government last year, have shown that drivers are very strongly opposed to road pricing."
Under the plans, city centres would be designated zone1, inner suburbs zone 2, outer suburbs zone 3 and rural areas zone 4.
A device installed in the car could record how many miles it had covered, while cameras would identify which zones it had passed through.
But Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, said: "This road-pricing 'lite' throws up more problems than it seeks to solve.
"People who live in a quiet empty road near a busy congested highway will pay the same. That's hardly fair. I don't think motorists will but it."
A Department for Transport spokesman: "As no decision has been taken about whether to have a national road pricing scheme, no decision has been made about its potential format."
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