Forging ahead with road toll network would be 'electoral suicide'

Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Expanding the nation's road toll network would be "electoral suicide" for the Government, a motoring campaigner has said.

A Whitehall feasibility study of new ownership and financing models for the network, ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron, is due to report in the New Year.
Reports suggest reforms - including allowing private firms to charge motorists to use new major roads - will feature among proposals in the Government's mid-term review.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said there will be a number of "important new steps" in the document, which is also due to be published early in 2013.

But the Alliance of British Drivers' Peter Roberts said there would be a massive backlash from voters - pointing to his 2007 petition against nationwide road pricing which attracted 1.3m signatures.

"I think people have made their views on road tolling, road pricing, very very clear. I think it would be electoral suicide...kind of like the poll tax on wheels," he told BBC Radio 4's Today. "Most drivers already believe they are paying too much for the roads."


However Stephen Glaister of the RAC Foundation suggested drivers could accept a package that saw tolls imposed in return for reductions in fuel duty and road tax, with the funds devoted to improvements.

In March, the Prime Minister ordered an urgent Treasury study of new models "for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network".

But he insisted it did not mean a return to the proposals for "mass tolling" under Labour which sparked the huge petition response on the Downing Street website.

AA president Edmund King said: "Drivers will question if they have to pay an access charge to use the motorways and main roads, why should they pay more to use the A14 or Severn Crossing via tolls? An access charge, like a season ticket, does nothing to reduce demand.

"Drivers don't like paying more taxes, but our research suggests they don't want the roads privatised or have to pay tolls and access charges.

"The simplest, fairest, easiest to enforce measure would be to gradually introduce a ring-fenced road excise duty to top up fuel duty paid at the pumps."
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