Plans for Britain’s first pay-as-you-drive scheme which could see motorists being charged for every journey they make have been slammed by drivers.
The scheme would see drivers in Cambridgeshire monitored by a network of cameras and charged according to their road use.
It could bring an annual revenue of £120 million to Cambridgeshire County Council.
Tolls would vary depending on distance, the time of travel, the route, carbon emissions, and the viability of alternative modes of transport.
Drivers would need to agree to have transponders fitted in their cars to allow road use to be measured and number plate recognition cameras would back this up.
It is estimated that 60 per cent of road users would pay £3 or less a week and 90 per cent would pay up to £10 weekly.
However, critics have branded the scheme – which could cost heavy road users up to £30 a week – as ”pie in the sky”.
Founder of the Driver’s Protest Union, Keith Peat, believes that costs are already too high for motorists.
He said: ”We are already paying over £50 billion a year in driver’s taxes of which very little – around £seven billion – comes back to us.
”The DPU is absolutely and totally against any form of road tolling whatsoever on the basis that these roads are already paid for.
”We have 30 million drivers in the UK which is a massive voting block. I would advise politicians supporting this scheme to think of their votes.
”Presumably councillors want people to come to Cambridge and encourage them to sustain the local economy.
”Why will they do that if it costs them above the odds to bring their horse and cart? It’s a pie in the sky scheme that will never work.”
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Nichola Harrison, architect of the ”change and spend” scheme, maintains it is a fair way to tax motorists for road use.
She said: ”Looking at traditional approaches to funding isn’t going to work because they have never produced enough money and have never produced a good system.
”It isn’t going to change now in an era of long-term reduced public spending.
”I want a really good transport system for Cambridgeshire and if there was an easy way to do it without having to pay ourselves I would be the first to put my hand up for it.
”But in the absence of such an option it seems that paying to use the roads is a good way to ensure we get excellent highways and an excellent transport system.”
Councillor Harrison proposes that £50 million could be spent on bus subsidies to create new routes and more frequent services.
Another £15 million is earmarked for highways maintenance and £30 million would be used for infrastructure projects.
A bid for £500 million of funding for a congestion charging zone to be established in Cambridgeshire ended in failure last year.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Tariq Sadiq criticised the new plans as not providing an incentive for motorists.
He said: ”There are some dubious assumptions about how much extra motorists and companies are willing to pay and it will raise concerns about privacy.
”What support there was for congestion charging before was based on massive up-front investment in public transport.
”Councillor Harrison’s plan turns that on its head and wants motorists to pay extra first with only the promise of future investment.”
Councillor Harrison is currently asking for the public’s views on the scheme via a website www.ourtransportfuture.org.
One user, Barry Chapman, branded the plans as ”naive” and a ”stealth tax” on those who already pay to travel in the county.
He wrote: ”Road user charging is yet another way of taxing rural residents who already pay a premium to go to the shops and work and in both of these ways are already subsidising the Cambridge City economy.
”This proposal is nothing more than a stealth tax on those who live in the County’s smaller towns and rural locations.
”Everything travels by road nowadays and so this would tax everything we all buy. I think this whole thing is so incredibly naive.
”Moreover, Cambridge’s thriving retail economy relies upon £millions of pounds from county visitors being spent there each year.”
Local authorities have the power to bring in road charging schemes under the Local Transport Act subject to government approval.
Roads in the county managed by the Highways Agency – the A14, M11 and A11 – would be exempt from the scheme.