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Government stands by road charging plan

The government has today rejected claims that it is to perform a u-turn on plans for a nationwide road user charging scheme.

Reports claimed yesterday that the government had placed a national scheme firmly down its list of priorities and would not include the powers to implement a scheme in its forthcoming Local Transport Bill.

It was suggested that ministers had put the scheme on the backburner after a petition against the scheme on the Downing Street website 1.8 million signatures.

But a spokesman for the Department for Transport said it was never the government's intention to include the powers for a national scheme in the Local Transport Bill.

"The position remains what the position has been for some time. We are working with cities such as Manchester and Birmingham to come up with proposals and at this time we are not ruling a national scheme in or out," he said.

He added that trials of the technology for a national scheme would go ahead next year as planned.

Reports of a government u-turn drew a mixed response this week.

Friends of the Earth transport campaigner Tony Bosworth said:

"Abandoning plans for a nationwide scheme would be yet another sign of the Government's dismal and incoherent approach to cutting Britain's carbon dioxide emissions. Road pricing should be part of the solution to our transport problems."

Meanwhile the Conservative transport spokesman Theresa Villiers welcomed the report: "We've been telling the Government to drop its ill-thought out plans for a national 'spy-in-the-sky' road pricing scheme for two years. Such a scheme would have been unnecessary and impractical and was strongly opposed by thousands of motorists. It also had the potential to go disastrously wrong, since it would have involved one of the largest IT projects the world has ever seen."

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