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London commuters could face M4 tolls

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MOTORISTS COULD be charged to use the M4 between central London and Heathrow airport under plans expected to be put out for consultation today.

The consultation is expected to be unveiled today in a progress report on the Aviation White Paper.

It will propose tolling the M4 as one of a number of measures to improve the air quality around Heathrow and strengthen the case for a third runway and sixth terminal at the airport.

A tolling trial is strongly supported by Heathrow operator BAA because planning permission for the new scheme would depend heavily on improved air quality.

We believe that road charging should be considered as an option alongside public transport schemes, ' said a BAA spokeswoman.

he Department for Transport will be consulting fully on this in 2007. This study includes surface access issues and BAA is providing technical information to assist with that process.' BAA also said it remained committed to expansion outside of Heathrow, despite the Office of Fair Trading's (OFT) decision to refer it to the Competition Commission.

The OFT cited low customer satisfaction, and a dominant (90%) share of the capital's airports as barriers to customer value.

BAA was widely expected to offer Gatwick airport for sale to appease the OFT. Instead, it has come out fighting.

'The main issue facing the UK is a lack of terminal and runway capacity in the South East of England, which results in delay and congestion. This problem has not arisen because of BAA's structure, but instead is the result of the UK's complex planning laws, an antiquated regulatory system and inflexible slot allocation, ' said BAA chief executive Stephen Nelson.

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