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Scotland charges on with tolling

SCOTLAND LOOKS set to pioneer congestion charging in the UK following last week's publication of a White Paper aimed at tackling the country's transport problems.

Travel Choices for Scotland provided stiffer support for road-use charging than the English White Paper, released a day earlier (NCE 23 July). The Scottish document claims: 'We see road user charging as probably the only realistic means of addressing some of our current transport difficulties.'

The document backs urban centres such as Edinburgh, which have been pushing for tolling powers during the last few years. But it also clearly suggests which trunk roads may be tolled: 'The M74 northern extension through Glasgow and the M8 upgrading could be some of the possible routes that could benefit from such an approach,' it says.

At the local level, the White Paper acknowledges that only advanced electronic tolling technology will solve congestion problems, but favours the quicker introduction of 'simpler schemes, provided that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that they can deliver net benefits'.

A longer term view is taken on trunk roads, with the Paper announcing: 'We shall establish a new Trunk Roads Development Budget [worth £10M] to fund technical studies and other related preparatory work, including possible piloting of electronic charging in Scotland, potentially on the M8.'

As in England, local authorities will be expected to develop local transport strategies. To help deliver their aims, the Government will create a £90M, three-year Scottish Public Transport Fund to fund new facilities such as park and ride schemes.

As in England, councils will be able to tax workplace parking spaces. However, the White Paper hints that retail and leisure facilities may not escape. 'We have decided to address only workplace parking at present and then to assess the outcome from any pilot schemes put in place.'

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