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Road charging trials welcomed

LEEDS CITY Council this week welcomed the Government's decision to go ahead with road tolling trials as a great opportunity to put road user charging firmly on the public agenda.

Leeds will be joined by Edinburgh as the first cities to host the full- scale road trials of the controversial electronic road user charging equipment.

Assistant director of transportation for Leeds Derek Quinn said it was as a positive step by the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions towards gaining public acceptance of road charging.

'Consultation on road user and work place charging has shown no outright rejection, which was the best we could hope for. But the majority remain against it. The trials will give us an opportunity to gauge public opinion further.'

Equipment has already been tested under controlled conditions by the Transport Research Laboratory. It will now be trialled over one year to gauge how effectively number plates can be read in all weather conditions. Enforcement and billing will also be trialled.

At least two electronic systems are expected to be tested. Smart cards on windscreens will be registered by roadside equipment every time a vehicle enters the city. Mock bills will be sent to 1,000 volunteers taking part in each area.

DETR is expected to tender for companies to trial electronic equipment in the next three weeks.

DETR's plans for a 'high occupancy vehicle lane' 3km either side of the Blackwall Tunnel have been rubbished by motoring organisations. Blackwall Tunnel was branded as a totally inappropriate location for a scheme to encourage car sharing and greater public transport use because of the perceived lack of alternatives and huge pressure on road space for single occupant cars.

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