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Ridley backs road charging

Former ICE President Tony Ridley has come out strongly in favour of road user charging, backing the scheme proposed by an RAC-funded group last month.

Ridley, a trustee of the RAC, asked, "What shall we do? Let congestion and wasted time grow unchecked; or, build or widen roads without reforming pricing; or, reform pricing and heavily restrain demand (which I am virtually certain is politically unfeasible); or, rely on combining reformed pricing with additional capacity - to improve efficient use of road space, and to preserve mobility."

Despite a history in the railways, he said, "What we must not do is allow the 'single solution merchants' to dominate the debate.

"They say 'just spend enough on railways', or 'price the excess cars off the roads', or 'build enough roads and forget about pricing', or even 'get people out of their cars on motorways and put them in coaches', and all will be well.

"The analysis by the authors of Roads and Reality shows that there is a strong economic case for more strategic road building at an annual rate of some 600 lane kilometres per year.

"This matches the average rate of road building in the late 80s and early 90s, a rate which has fallen away to some 100 lane kilometres per year, while car ownership and traffic has continued to increase inexorably. "

Ridley says a National Roads Corporation should be founded, and Department for Transport plans should extend to 30-50 years, and include not just motorways and other roads under the authority of the Highways Agency, but also, "other major national and regional routes. This capability should, in principle, also cover the national railway network."

"The most important ingredient is the recognition by Government of the urgency and scale of the tasks," he said.

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